Sunglasses, More Than a Fashion Statement… …Sunscreen, Not Just for Light Skinned People

Tonja Ward | 7/16/2008, 8:46 p.m.
Hot summer days and outdoor activities increase our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. So, this month the American ...

Hot summer days and outdoor activities increase our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.  So, this month the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) urge Americans of all ages, including children, to protect their skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.  July is “Ultraviolet Safety Month.”

Three types of UV rays come from Sunlight: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA rays pass through the protective ozone shield that surrounds the earth and make up most of our sun exposure.  They cause sunburn and tanning, skin aging and wrinkling and contribute to skin cancer. The eyes too can receive sunburn, which can cause pain, redness, and tearing.  Also, prolonged, unprotected UVA exposure may lead to potentially blinding conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

UVB rays are generally absorbed by the ozone layer, however, enough do get through to cause damage.  They also contribute to cancer, sunburn, cataracts and immune system damage.

While UVC are the most dangerous, the ozone layer blocks these rays so they don’t reach the earth.

Our bodies come equipped with a first line of defense that absorbs UV rays before they can cause skin damage called melanin. The different concentrations and colors of melanin help determine our different skin colors. People with lighter skin color have less melanin to absorb UV rays and protect their skin. People with darker skin color have more melanin to protect their skin.  Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that both dark and light-skinned people need protection from UV rays because any burning causes skin damage.

During the summer months the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter. But, with the right precautions, we can increase our level of safety while in the sun.

Here are the best ways to protect the skin and eyes from harmful UV rays:

• Cover the skin

• Apply sunscreen

• Wear sunglasses

• Wear wide-brimmed hats

To be effective, all must be worn every time we’re outside for prolonged periods of time, even when it’s overcast.

With all the choices, what type of sunscreen and sunglasses should we buy?  The main consideration with sunscreen is the sun protection factor (SPF), which basically indicates how much longer we can stay in the sun before beginning to burn.  SPF numbers on sunscreen labels range from 2 to 50.   The American Academy of Dermatology and the Sun Safety Alliance (SSA) recommend an SPF of 15 or higher.

As for sunglasses, the most important thing is to purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.  Don’t be misled by the color of the lens or the price tag dangling from the frame.  Many $10 sunglasses provide equal or greater protection than a $100 pair. With expensive sunglasses, you’re really paying for style, frame quality and options such as scratch-resistant coatings.

As an additional precaution, the National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency advise regularly checking the UV Index predictions to help determine appropriate sun-protective behaviors.

Start protecting your skin and eyes this summer to avoid further complications later in life.

For mote information visit:

www.epa.gov/sunwise

www.nsc.org/ehc/sunsafe.htm

www.cancer.org

www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/uv_index/uv_current

www.aao.org

www.skincarephysicians.com/SkinCancerNet/index.html