Sunlight is important for the sustenance of all life forms in innumerable ways. In the case of humans, sun rays help in one of the most crucial ways by helping provide the most essential Vitamin D. Vitamin D, a nutrient essential for bone health and various other body maintenance works is synthesized from sunlight by the skin.
But apart from that, the sun gives off rays of light that can cause harm. The harmful rays known as ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible to bare eyes. There are three types of UV rays based on wavelengths. UVA has the longest wavelengths from 400 to 320 nanometers followed by UVB with wavelengths between 320 to 290 nanometers. And lastly, there are UVC rays that have the shortest wavelength of about 290 to 200 nanometers. These UV rays can cause major damage to the skin. The damages not only include painful sunburn, but excessive exposure to sunlight may also cause aging, wrinkling, allergic reactions, and even skin cancer. UV rays can also worsen existing skin diseases.
The skin’s outer layer has cells containing the pigment melanin which protects the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, excessive exposure to sunlight stimulates the skin to produce more melanin and becomes dark. But fortunately due to the natural process, the dark skin fades when new cells move to the surface and tanned cells are sloughed off.
To learn the basics of sun protection, it is essential to collect ample knowledge about sun exposure, the possible harms, and protection measures.
Sun rays are essential for every living being. Even a small amount of UV rays are good as they help create Vitamin D, which absorbs calcium. The body needs calcium which is essential for maintaining healthy bones. Even UV rays can be used to disinfect or sterilize as well as treat some health conditions like eczema, rickets, psoriasis, or jaundice.
Overexposure to sunlight can lead to:
There are many benefits of proper exposure to sunlight, but excessive exposure is not good. Here let us examine the issues with overexposure to sunlight.
Skin changes: Skin cells with melanin may form a clump which can further grow to become moles and freckles and may subsequently worsen to the Cancer stage.
Early aging: Overexposure to sunlight may trigger the skin to age faster. The signs are wrinkles, tight or leathery skin as well as dark spots.
Poor immune system: White blood cells protect the body. The white blood cells help to create new cells when the skin gets damaged due to overexposure to sunlight. This result affects the immune system.
Eye defects: Overexposure to UV rays can develop eye defects. It may damage the tissues in the eyes, and burn the cornea which as a result will affect vision power. Over time, one may develop cataracts and it may even cause complete/partial blindness when left untreated.
Skin cancer: Overexposure to harmful sun rays can cause skin cancer. Skin cancer tends to spread to other body parts when left untreated. Irrespective of age, gender, or skin color, overexposure to harmful sun rays can invite major trouble.
Best practices for sun protection:
Avoid exposure to sunlight for an extended time: The best practice is to avoid direct exposure to sunlight for an extended time mostly during the period between 10 am and 4 pm. This is the time when the sun’s rays are strongest. The intensity and impact may vary with locations and seasons.
Take a break: Some professions may not allow avoiding working under the sun, i.e. farmers, laborers, fishermen, etc. Either they can take a break when the intensity is high or can use an umbrella.
Proper clothing: Pull up clothing that completely covers the body parts preventing sunlight to come in direct contact with the skin. Using sunglasses works effectively for the eyes. This rule is a must for babies, kids, and elderly persons.
Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen for 30 minutes before stepping out into the sun. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Even reapplying sunscreen after swimming or sweating is good practice. Sunscreen with higher SPF protects against UV rays. As the FDA suggests, using SPF 15 or greater would be the best.
When to see a doctor:
If you notice anything unusual on your skin, rush to the doctor. Early detection can help treat the condition and prevent it from worsening. Well, regular screenings can be much more helpful.
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