Recently, an excellent article appeared in the Westways magazine, a publication of the Automobile Club of Southern California. The title was, “Here Comes the Sun — 10 Things You Should Know about UV Protection.”
I learned quite a bit from this article. Here are some highlights that I want to share with you.
1. Most people do not use enough sunscreen to be effective. According to one of the doctors quoted, you need a “shot glass, a minimum of two ounces, for full-body protection.” That is a lot. That is the equivalent of four tablespoons. You will know when you have enough on when you still see the sunscreen after slathering it on.
2. You need to apply sunscreen every two hours, and even more often if you are swimming. In other words, concerning the volume mentioned above, and the frequency, be prepared to bring a large bottle of sunscreen.
3. The SPF number applies only to UVB (ultraviolet B) rays. We need to be aware of the UVA (ultraviolet A) rays, also. These also contribute to skin cancer and cause premature aging. The best bet is to buy a sunscreen that covers both UVA and UVB light.
4. Every suntan implies a bit of skin damage. Do not forget that. We all look great with a tan, but every tan is a sign of the body’s reaction to the sun. For the body to react to the sun, there must have been too much sun!
5. Just because you did not spend this year in the sun does not mean there is not a long-term cumulative effect. There is a negative cumulative effect of sun exposure. The sun we got 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and 5 years ago, like a time bomb, will manifest now and in the future. Therefore, young people need to think sun protection. Middle-aged people have already figured out that youthful skin spent in the sun won’t look so glamorous later in life.
6. Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from damage. Cataracts, thickening of the eyes’ otherwise clear lens causing cloudy vision, develop as a result of aging and sun exposure. For this reason, do not forget your sunglasses on those sunny days!
~Robert Kotler, MD, FACS