Block the sun

Skin cancer is the No. 1 most common type of cancer. Many of us unknowingly spend too much time in the sun with little protection. This exposure to the sun causes damage to our skin. Repetitive exposure of this kind, can put us at risk of getting skin cancer. Daylight, even dim, obscure daylight, causes skin damage. When the skin gets damaged, it means it slowly becomes less and less able to hold moisture or feel smooth.

Protecting your skin from the sun is important because the sun emits ultraviolet(UV) radiation. Over time, exposure to UV radiation causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discoloration, freckles or age spots. It is important to note that most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.

We really need to understand why exposure to the sun is so damaging. First, there are two types of UV radiation: UVB and UVA. UVB rays cause sunburns. UVA rays are believed to be responsible for photo aging(the damage that occurs to the skin from many years of exposure to the sun). UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply and cause sunlight induced premature aging, wrinkling and age spots. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer even on cloudy days.

Nearly 95% of the UV radiation that we are exposed is caused by UVA rays. When photo aging occurs, certain fibers in the skin called elastin(from the word elastic) are damaged by the rays of the sun. Elastin is found in the dermis and is responsible for giving structure to your skin and organs. As we age, elastin diminishes which causes the skin to wrinkle and sag. Exposure to the sun also causes the elastin fibres to breakdown causing the skin to sag and stretch. The skin also tends to bruise and tear more easily and takes longer to heal. Usually sun damage will not show up when you are young but will later in life. So be sure to also protect your young ones from sun damage and teach them the importance of applying sunscreen. Keep children under six months old away from the sun.

Most sunscreen products prevent sunburn by blocking UVA/UVB rays, but even with their availability we still need to be careful on how much we expose ourselves to the sun. As well as making sure we use sunscreen we must:

  • Avoid mid-day sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats (3-4 inch brim that extends all around the hat). Baseball caps and visors shade the face but leave neck, lower face, and ears exposed.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and pants when in the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tightly woven fabrics and dark colors, such as deep blue and black, or bright colors, such as orange and red, offer more protection. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through too.
  • Use UV blocking sunglasses.
  • Installing window films on your cars windows protects you and your passengers from damaging UV rays.

Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from sun exposure and skin cancer. You can delay changes associated with aging by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen if you must be out in the sun

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Prisca Mwangi is a Beauty Consultant at The Color Palette Company. She can be reached at

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