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Sun safety tips

Many people love the warm sun. The sun's rays make us feel good, and many people feel the sun makes them look good. However, exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces and is the number one cause of skin cancer.

In fact, sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of ageing. Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibres in the skin called elastin. When these fibres break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily - taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you're young, it will definitely show later in life.

How does the sun change my skin?

Exposure to the sun causes:

  • Pre-cancerous (actinic/solar keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma) skin lesions
  • Benign tumours
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Discoloured areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
  • A yellow discolouration of the skin
  • Dilation of small blood vessels under the skin

How can I protect my skin from the sun?

Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent sun-related skin problems:

  • Apply suncream, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every couple of hours thereafter.
  • Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
  • Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts and trousers.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours, between 11am and 3pm.
  • Perform skin self-checks regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
  • 80% of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before the age of 18. As a parent, be a good role model and encourage skin cancer prevention habits in your children.
  • Avoid sunbeds.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 18, 2013

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