Protect yourself from the sun this spring

Senior Hannah Hancock soaks in the sun, while wearing SPF 45 of course!

Senior Hannah Hancock soaks in the sun, while wearing SPF 45 of course!

Academy girls are returning from spring break sporting a new accessory: a tan.  With prom, silver coffee and graduation around the corner, Academy girls want the perfect tan in order to look their best.  Although a tan may look appealing, it causes more harm than good.  Although a tan may appear to be safer than a sunburn, both are equally as toxic to your health.

“It’s not true — any little bit of color you weren’t born with is a sign that your skin has been exposed to UV rays,” explains David Leffell, MD, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation and professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine. “Sun damage is cumulative, so the more you accrue, the greater your cancer risk.”

Another myth about skin care is that it takes years for sun damage to physically appear.  Marks such as freckles, fine lines and broken blood vessels can show up after a few weeks of sun exposure.

Steven Rotter, a dermatologic surgeon in Vienna, Virginia. How they appear: UV rays alter pigment and weaken your skin’s collagen, the layer that gives your dermis elasticity.

Although a cute cover-up can protect you from the sun, it doesn’t replace the protection you get from sunscreen.  A cover-up only has a SPF of 7 which will protect you for about 70 minutes in the sun.

“Most summer clothes block very few rays because the fabric is usually cotton or polyester, which isn’t woven tightly enough to keep out UV light,” says Susan Weinkle, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

A common misconception is that UV rays won’t affect you when it’s overcast outside. “Seventy percent of all UV rays penetrate through clouds, so your damage odds are actually almost as high on an overcast day as they are on a bright day,” says Dr. Rotter.

With Prom around the corner many girls will be hitting up indoor tanning salons as a means of scoring some quick color.  However, the effects of tanning beds are just as harmful as tanning outdoors.  Many studies have proven the relationship between indoor

tanning and skin cancer.  One study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in 2001, found that just 10 indoor tanning sessions sparked skin changes linked to cancer.  The results of a 2003 Norwegian and Swedish study revealed that one or more indoor tanning sessions a month increased a woman’s melanoma risk by 55 percent.

Finally, some girls think that the SPF in makeup will provide ample protection from the sun.  However, although these products do protect your skin, their SPF is not high enough to keep you safe from the sun for a long time explains Deborah Sarnoff, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University.  Also the ingredients in makeup don’t protect you from all harmful rays.

“This means they defend you against UVB rays only, not UVA rays,” says Dr. Sarnoff.

Now this doesn’t mean that you can never enjoy the Florida sun during spring break or summer.  It just means that you have to be prepared when you know that you will be in the sun.  Remember to always use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 ( regardless of your skin tone) and cute floppy hat and shades won’t hurt either.  By taking these steps,  you can prevent skin cancer and other consequences of unprotected sun exposure.