The Best Ways to Protect Yourself From Harmful UV Rays

Alica P. Craig
5 Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun | Ochsner Health

Ultraviolet (UV) rays come from the sun. They are important because exposure to the sun helps the production of Vitamin D in the body.

There are three kinds of UV radiation which are UVA rays, UVB rays, and UVC rays. The rays with the most radiation are UVC rays but these come from manmade sources such as mercury lamps. UVA rays have the least energy but will still cause skin damage over sustained exposure.

Being on tanning beds for long periods frequently can also lead to skin damage, sunburn, or eye damage from UV rays. July is known as the UV safety month because it is the hottest summer month.

UV Radiation and The Risks Associated With Too Much Exposure To The Sun

UV radiation can come from the sun or tanning beds which use UV rays to produce the tanning effect, like the sun. UV rays penetrate the skin and help the body use Vitamin D to absorb calcium which strengthens bones and teeth.

Too much exposure to UV rays strips folic acid that is a nutrient needed for healthy fetus development. It can also cause skin cancer because it causes abnormal cell development on the skin.

Other health risks are eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots on the skin, wrinkles, and leathery skin. Long-term effects of sun exposure on the skin are dark patches and skin changes such as the development of moles and cancerous sores, and damaged eyes.

Different Skin Types and Sensitivities To UV Rays

Different skin types will be affected differently by UV rays. Skin types are based on skin color. Melanin is the brown pigment in the skin which protects the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. More melanin has a better chance of protecting the skin from UV rays.

The different kinds of skin are affected differently by the effect of UV rays exposure:

Dark Brown or Black Skin – This is the most UV rays-protected skin type. The melanin absorbs UV rays so that it tans but never burns. The likelihood of effects of overexposure to UV radiation is minimal. However, it is advisable to wear sunscreen with a low SPF if you will be in the sun for long periods.

Moderate Brown Skin – Will tan to a darker tone but not burn.

Light Brown – Will tan to a darker tone and may burn with plenty of sun exposure.

Beige – Burns moderately and will tan to a darker shade.

White – Will burn easily and tan minimally.

Pale White – Burns always and never tans.

Warning Signs Of A Major Problem

Sun exposure can either be short-term or long-term. Warning signs for short-term UV rays exposure are sunburn, reddening of the skin, tanning, and swelling; all these can be severe enough to cause extreme discomfort.

Over a long period of UV rays exposure, some warning signs are the development of basal cell carcinomas on the skin. They appear as a white, waxy lump or a brown, scaly patch on areas exposed to the sun. The development of squamous cell carcinomas can appear on areas exposed to the sun but may spread to other areas of the body.

They appear as a hard red nodule, a dry and flaky sore, a raised patch on the skin on an old scar or the patch may become an open sore. These are signs of the development of skin cancer. Development of eye cataracts and pterygium, when excess tissue grows that will block sight, is another effect of long-term sun exposure.

Smart Ways to Protect Against UV Radiation

  • During hot months the sun is hottest between 10 am and 4 pm, during these hours especially, there are some measures to take to reduce overexposure to UV rays.
  • Wear clothing that protects the exposed areas, such as arms, by wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing.
  • Put on sunscreen with the correct SPF protection. A good rule of thumb is the lighter the skin, the higher the SPF. Reapply sunscreen after 20 minutes when out swimming or when sweating.
  • Wear a hat to provide extra protection for the face, eyes, and scalp.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes.
  • During the hottest hours of the day, seek shade as much as possible.
  • Reduce spent time on tanning beds and reduce the frequency used.
  • Some foods help repair and protect from sun damage, so it is important to eat them. These are foods like blueberries, watermelon, nuts, seeds, carrots, beets, green leafy vegetables, and green tea.
  • People, whose jobs involve constant exposure to UV rays should always wear protective clothing, UV filters, and shields.

People who discover they have signs of short-term exposure to the sun can take home remedies like cool baths and use sunburn ointment. For those who have long-term UV rays exposure signs such as skin sores, it is best to see a doctor and have the symptoms checked and treated.

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