Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sunburns & How To Prevent Them

Sunburns are burns on your skin caused from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Not very much time in the sun will cause your skin to burn -- you can develop a sunburn after only 30 minutes out in the sun.

The Cause of Sunburns
There are three types of ultraviolet rays. They are classified according to wavelength. Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the only ones that affect you, while ultraviolet C (UVC) rays never reach the earth. Both UVA and UVB rays are responsible for damaging your skin, causing sunburn and premature aging of the skin, but UVB is more dangerous and can lead to skin cancer.

When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, the production of melanin is sped up. Melanin gives your skin its normal color is and is designed to protect your skin. Extra melanin creates the darker color of a tan. A tan is the body's first line of protection against sunburn and skin damage. The amount of melanin in one's skin is determined by your genes, but most people can't produce enough to protect themselves, and because the skin can't protect itself well enough, a sunburn is the result.

Unfortunately, certain people and regions are at more risk than others. The southern United States, regions around the Equator, and places with high altitudes generally offer a higher risk of being sunburned. In addition, light-skinned and fair-haired people can also have a higher chance of sunburn and skin damage. Certain drugs like antibiotics and birth control pills can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

How to Avoid Sunburns

SUNSCREEN! SPF 30 is best. Make sure to reapply every hour, and after activities that involve sweating or swimming where sunscreen can be diminished. Note: to get the SPF advertised on the bottle, you must use an ounce (about as much as a shot glass) or you aren't receiving the full benefits.

Avoid the Sun between 10 and 4, which is when the sun is at its strongest. Look for shade when you can.

Wear protective clothing, if it's possible (and not too hot outside) like long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses. That can be difficult when it's really hot, so applying the right sunscreen is important. If you're not sure which sunscreen is the best, Consumer Reports has a report on the four best sunscreens currently available on the market.

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