Generation X has had a complicated relationship with the sun.
As a kid growing up in Las Vegas, it was the norm to lather up with suntanning lotion before heading outside. My sister and her friends sunbathed with tri-corner tinfoil screens to magnify the sun on their face as they lounged by the pool, listening to Prince. The only sun protection was zinc oxide, leaving a telltale greasy white splotch on the ridge of your nose.
I never tanned. I only got blistering sunburns that kept me up at night in feverish fits. When you can trace your lineage back to Ireland, freckle-faced kids are never supposed to transform into bronze Greek gods.
Later in life, I realized applying copious amounts of suntanning lotion was tantamount to giving a kid a highball and a cigarette. Too much sun exposure can lead to some pretty serious health issues: heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburns, and skin-related issues are multiplied with prolonged, unprotected time in the sun.
It’s important to get outside and enjoy activities. Just make sure you take the right steps to protect your skin.
The Sunny Side of Skincare
Sun exposure is good for your body and your mind. The sun is a free mood enhancer—it can make you feel better, increase your energy, and raise serotonin—a chemical nerve cells produce—levels in your brain. Healthy levels of serotonin can improve your mood and help with other aspects of well-being.
Sunlight also impacts your brain’s production of melatonin—the chemical that tells your brain when it’s time to sleep. More time spent outside helps regulate sleeping and offsets the negative effects of copious screen time.
Time in the sun can also help relieve stress. When you play in a park, go for a run, or ride a bike, you’re forming healthy exercise habits, which is great for your body. But even relaxing hobbies like birdwatching and gardening can help clear your mind and make you happier.
Finally, the sun provides vitamin D, which is crucial for healthy bone strength. Doctors have reported that only 15 minutes of sun exposure can provide the vitamin D your body requires.
R U UV Aware?
The sun is 94.5 million miles from the earth. Yet it only takes a little over eight minutes for its rays to reach the earth’s surface. These rays are a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the sun. This radiation includes the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet (UV) lights that warm our planet. UV light also causes suntans and sunburns.
A sunburn is an inflammatory reaction to UV radiation damage to your skin’s outer layers. It starts with melanin—a pigment that defends against the sun’s rays by darkening your unprotected, sun-exposed skin. Genetics determine melanin levels in your skin. For those, like me, who have lower amounts, prolonged sun exposure can cause skin cells to become swollen and red.
Excessive sunburns aren’t good. Repeated sunburns can alter the tumor-suppressing gene, giving injured cells less of a chance to repair before progressing to cancer. It’s why sun safety is so vitally important.
Your Sun Safety Guide
Whether you’re heading to the beach or taking the dogs for a walk, you need to take some precautions. Try incorporating these tips into your daily routine before your fun in the sun.
Clothing can provide a great barrier against the sun’s UV rays. And many of today’s fabrics offer high-tech protection and breathability. Consider a light, long-sleeved shirt to protect your chest and arms. A wide-brimmed hat can shield your face and neck. Where you can’t cover up, apply sunscreen.
And don’t forget about your eyes. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your peepers and the sensitive skin around them.
Make it Shady
The sun’s peak UV exposure is from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., when it’s usually directly above you. For both your skin and your comfort, try and stay out of the sun during this time. Plan your walks on the shady side of the street. Hang out under umbrellas or awnings. If you’re at a backyard BBQ, look for shade under a tree or a covered porch.
To fully avoid the sun during the day is tough, but it pays off to think about your exposure. It’s smart to delay exercise outside until later in the day. If it can’t wait, do your best to stay in the shade.
The most important acronym in sun safety is SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor. It’s a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UV rays. The SPF number gives you an approximate time before UV rays would redden your skin. For example, SPF 30 means it takes 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen.
But just because you applied sunscreen in the morning before you ran out the door doesn’t mean you’re good for the day. About an ounce of sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before heading out, and it should be reapplied every two hours. Sweat, swimming, and other factors can cause your sunscreen to dissipate throughout the day. If you think your skin is starting to get warm, time to reapply.
Those Pesky Tan Lines
Twenty years ago, tan lines were a social status. Today, they’re proof you’re not taking care of your skin. If you’re looking to get a bronzy glow, first start with a healthy diet. Your body naturally produces skin-protecting SPF with lycopene. Foods like papaya, tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit are rich in lycopene, and healthy snacks like carrots, almonds, pomegranates, and leafy greens can also help protect your skin. Plus, boost your natural antioxidant intake with green tea, dark chocolate, and star of anise.
And some final tips beyond sunscreen and protective clothing. Don’t go to tanning beds. Protect your skin by drinking water. And check out Celavive skincare products for a natural, healthy glow. Now, get outside for some much-needed summertime fun.