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Oh, how lovely those rays feel on your skin on a hot summer day on the beach. The cool ocean breeze makes the heat bearable and even pleasant as you are working on your sun kissed look. But what is the cost of your tan? Do you know that there is also a rather taxing price on your skin even when you are not sunbathing or participating in outdoor recreational activities? Most people also don’t realize that the UV rays from the sun can be just as strong on a clear and sunny day as a cloudy or hazy one. 

The sun emits two different types of ultraviolet rays that are both harmful to our bodies, if we do not take the proper precautions. The UVA and UVB rays of the sun affect your skin whenever you come in contact with them, especially if your skin is without protection. So, what is the difference between UVA and UVB rays, and what can you do to protect yourself against them?

According to the definitions provided by the American Skin Association, “UVA rays are the longer wavelengths that penetrate the skin more deeply affecting the DNA of the cells in the dermis, attacking cell membranes, and changing the proteins that make up collagen and elastin, which support the skin’s fibrous structure. By undermining these parts of the skin, wrinkles and sagging occurs. Also, the loss of support for the skin’s tiny blood vessels, which can become permanently dilated, causes ruddiness and visible spider veins. These rays also contribute to skin cancer. UVB rays are the short, high-energy wavelengths that are absorbed by the epidermis (outer layer of your skin), which can cause freckles, brown spots, and skin cancer. “

Obviously, it is near impossible to stay completely out of the sun all of the time. Brief exposure to the sun actually does have some benefits relating to the absorption of vitamin D and its ability to actually help to boost your mood. However, there are certain daily practices and sun rules that you can follow in order to decrease your chances of premature skin aging and skin cancer.

  1. Wear sunscreen everyday, all day!
  2. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a SPF of at least 15.
  3. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours of continuous outdoor time and every 80 minutes of high intensity sweat producing or water related activities.
  4. Limit your sun exposure during 10am and 2pm; this is when the sun is the strongest.
  5. Wear protective clothing like a lightweight long sleeve shirt or a wide brim hat when you know that you will be in the direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
  6. Follow the “Shadow Rule.” According to the American Skin Association, if your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the intensity of the UV rays from the sun are at a high level and are likely to cause a sunburn if you stay outside for too long. “Short Shadow-Seek Shade.”

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