I have three important conditions you will want to avoid; sunburn, sun damage and skin cancers. You can still have lots of fun in the sun this summer (practice social distancing, please). Not getting sunburn is the first step.
The sun is the main source of radiation. This is in the form of UVA and UVB rays and both types can cause damage to our eyes and skin. Any skin tone may become sunburn if you are over exposed to the sun.
UVA rays contain longer wavelengths these penetrate our dermis causing wrinkles and leathery skin. The UVA rays account for about 95% of radiation reaching the earth’s surface. They are more powerful than UVB, but UVA rays can reach through clouds and glass. (Yes glass) So even though you are inside you need to be protected if you regularly sit near a window.
UVB rays have short wavelengths that reach the epidermis. This causes our skin to redden and become sunburn the first sign of damage. Darker-skinned people may not have the redness but notice the heat, sensitivity and itchiness.
Over exposure to the sun can occur in 15 minutes. UV rays provoke the skin to increase its melanin production making it darker. And the skin’s histamine production (immune) brings on the inflammation. The warmth felt is the blood rushing to the area to begin the healing process.
Exposure to both rays leads to the development of skin cancer. The highest amount of UVB rays hit the U.S. between 10 AM and 4 PM April through October.
The ozone a protective layer blocking all UVC rays is depleting providing us with less protection. The UVA and UVB can pass through the ozone.
Also during the winter, snow and ice can reflect the sun’s UV rays almost doubling your amount of exposure. This makes it just as possible to get sunburn even during the winter. July is UV Awareness Month.
No one really wants sunburn (I speak from experience). It is very painful. But for decades some sought that golden tan.
Sunburn is a first degree burn to our epidermis. That golden tan is not healthy at all but actually a warning from your skin that it has been injured.
Blistering is a worse sunburn that can lead to infection. Getting a bad sun burn means constant pain just moving. This is not worth it.
Being sunburned makes it difficult to sleep and enjoy other activities because of the pain. And then you have chills. Sometimes you may feel the need to bundle up in a blanket in the summer. There is a period were the skin sheds and it is noticeable. The skin can peel off in sheets (yuck) you may leave flakes behind (been there).
Your skin is now so sensitive to touch. Just brushing the area against anything causes a sensation of spiraling pain outward (ouch, yes, ouch!). If you’re sunburned this is not funny, it just hurts.
Being sunburned means you have to live like this for weeks. Not to mention, you may get a headache, nausea, vomiting and dehydration.
Sun exposure becomes sun damage years later. Sun damage can have many different forms and affects areas that had chronic exposure to the sun. And this can be more than wrinkles and aging.
Leathery lesions may start appearing on skin that was exposed. The texture may be crusty/bumpy and brown/tan in color. The lesions may be roundish in shape and different in size. They could itch and if scratched may bleed. It may be called age spots or liver spots.
Some lesions are benign. Some people may develop freckles or white spots.
Lips and eyes may be damaged if not protected. Red benign areas on the side of the neck may occur.
If the scalp is sunburned this could damage the hair follicles leading to hair loss.
If a lesion is premalignant it has a chance of turning into skin cancer.
Sunlamps and tanning beds also produce the risk to develop sun damage and possibly cancer.
Many people believe using a tanning bed is safer then tanning outdoors but this is a myth. There is still exposure to these harmful UV rays. Some states have even banned the use of tanning beds by minors.
Skin cancer may appear at any age even if you don’t have any visible sun damage. The sun is the main cause of skin cancers. It is important to know your skin and do a self-exam regularly. This list is a starting point of what to be aware of:
• Skin changes – new spot, color, the shape and size of the current spot
• Sore spot – a mole that won’t heal, causes pain or is tender
• Mole – is itchy or starts to bleed
• Sore mole or lump – that appears shiny, waxy, smooth or pale
• Red lump – that is firm, looks crusty and bleeds
• Red spot – flat and rough, dry or scaly
• Blackish spot or streak – beneath the fingernail or toenail not caused by recent trauma (subungual melanoma)
Checking Your Spots is a must. We all have had some exposure at some time in our life. Commuting in our cars we are exposed to rays. If you like window seats when eating out or at other facilities this presents the same risk.
Know your ABCDEs. Make note of any changes in your spots (freckles, moles and age spots). If you were a sun worshipper or work and activities took you outdoors, don’t forget your annual skin cancer screening. If you have any concerns consult your Derm.
• A –Asymmetry – this means one side is different from the other, if you were to split in half.
• B – Border – the outside edges are irregular, scalloped or not defined.
• C – Color – there is a difference from one location to the other. May be shades of tan and brown, black or sometimes even red, white and blue.
• D – Diameter – usually they can be larger than a pencil eraser. However, they can be smaller when diagnosed (better to catch early).
• E – Evolving – The spot looks different from others. The size, shape or color is changing.
You will need a hand-held mirror to do a self-exam. This will help with seeing the skin behind you. Check your front and back in the mirrors. Then raise your arms and look at your right and left sides.
Bend your elbows and view your forearms, back of the upper arms and palms.
With the hand-held mirror (or floor standing) check back of legs and soles of feet, don’t forget spaces between toes and fingers.
With a hand-held mirror check the back of neck and scalp. Part and lift your hair.
Last step, look at your back and buttocks with the hand-held (or floor standing) mirror. Take notes and keep a journal. This will help with consulting your Derm.
There are two types; Chemical and Physical. The differences, a physical sunscreen will sit on the skin surface blocking the sun’s harmful rays. It contains ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. A physical sunscreen is a good choice for sensitive skin (rosacea and acne prone).
While chemical is easier to rub into the skin, they feel lighter and don’t leave a white residue. Active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone and octisalate, work to absorb harmful rays by dissipating them.
An SPF (sun protection factor) only protects against UVB. Look for a “broad-spectrum that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
You might pack a water resistant sunscreen for the beach, pool or when exercising outdoors.
UV Awareness Month draws attention to our exposure to the sun. It is important to know the risk and protect ourselves now against any harmful rays:
- Wear sunscreen everyday no matter what the weather is. Broad Spectrum protects against UVA & UVB rays. Many products now contain SPF
- Wear protective clothing including wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses outdoors. Cover your skin!
- Find shade; avoid the sun’s rays from 10AM-4PM when they are the strongest.
- Be cautious near reflective surfaces such as water (it’s like a mirror), snow and sand. These throw back damaging rays increasing your chances of getting sunburn. Reapply when exiting the pool each time.
- Avoid sunburn (please, These Can Harm Our Skin). If you had a sunburn that blistered when young, your chances of having melanoma later, doubles.
During the winter months prevention would still include sunscreen, lip balm, wearing gloves, sunglasses and your hat.
Sunburn, sun damage and skin cancers are why we should practice prevention and wear our sunscreen.
Be happy with the skin you have, trust me. Skip the sun and be smart. You won’t pay for it now and later.
Disclaimer: No endorsements for pay or otherwise are included in this blog.
This website is for informational purposes not for diagnosis.
If you have a health condition or concern, please consult your doctor.
https://www.healthline.com/health/can-black-people-get-sunburn accessed 07/09/2020