Sun exposure can lead to skin damage, illness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitny Andrews
  • 42nd Aeromedical-Dental Squadron
Did you know sun exposure causes most of the skin damage that we think of as a normal part of becoming older? There are fibers in skin called elastin. When these fibers are damaged, skin is damaged as well.

For example, you become more prone to wrinkles, sagging, dryness, etc. Your skin can also be more easily bruised or scratched.

Sun exposure can also lead to illness and injury. Not only can exposure promote sunburns, leading to blisters, peeling and irritation, but ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer. In fact, 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. Also, the longer you are in the sun, your risk greatly increases for heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or worst of all, heat stroke.

The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries and protect your skin is to keep yourself hydrated (water is the best choice), take breaks to sit in the shade or indoors, and wear sunscreen.

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of your sunscreen? There are many different types of sunscreen to use these days; some are better than others. For instance, ingredients you should look for in a sunscreen are zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX because these ingredients block both UVA and UVB rays.

There are sunscreens with certain ingredients that you should avoid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oxybenzone is easily absorbed by the skin and is known to cause cell damage.

A recent study by the FDA indicates Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) can accelerate the development of tumors and lesions.

You should pick a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, apply it liberally 30 minutes before sun exposure and don't forget to reapply often.

So next time you plan a fun weekend at the beach, or you decide you want to get a tan and lay out for hours, think of what can happen to your skin in the long run. Don't forget your sunscreen and a cooler full of water.