Solar Power: Understanding the Sun and How to Enjoy It While Protecting Yourself!
By now, all those living in the northern hemisphere can probably come out of hibernation. Temperatures are rising, the landscape taking on a palette of greens and with this unfolding of winter into summer, comes our human instinct to want to be a part of it! Whether it’s fishing, hiking, surfing, stand-up paddling, gardening or simply hanging in a hammock, that sweet, golden touch of sunshine quenches something inside unnamable. Sunshine absolutely has its benefits and being outside collecting fresh air in your lungs is priceless. With so many “good-for-you” things, however, sunshine should be approached with some caution and know- how. The sun radiates warmth; it is fundamental in growth and creates dazzling spectacles. On the other hand, the sun can cause sun damage ranging from freckles to deadly skin cancer. Over one million Americans per year are diagnosed with skin cancer in one form or another. Fortunately sun protection has become a huge industry and protecting your skin, your largest organ, from the sun’s powerful rays is pretty straight forward.
To begin, a brief 'Sun 101':
The sun radiates light to the earth and part of that light consists of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. When these rays reach the skin, they cause tanning, burning, and other skin damage. Sunlight contains three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays are blocked by the ozone so UVA and UVB are the rays we need to be concerned with. Whether it is a glorious bluebird day or an overcast one, the sun’s rays permeate the ozone and care should be taken regardless of the weather.
Protection: The first form of protection begins with us; it is a chemical called melanin that is in our skin and absorbs UV rays. People with a lighter complexion have less melanin in their skin than darker skinned people. All people, regardless of melanin levels, however, need to ante up to protection, the first being sunscreen. UVA rays are not responsible for the reddening however, UVA is the real culprit of skin aging and DNA damage that goes deep when tanning. When buying a sunscreen, consider purchasing a broad spectrum lotion that protects from both UVA and UVB. UVA rays can only be blocked by these ingredients so be sure to look for them on the bottle, spray, tube, or stick: zinc oxide, avobenzone and ecamsule. The SPF, sun protection factor, realistically bottoms out past 60 and should begin with at least an SPF of 15. Every part of your body is game for sunscreen, eyelids, ears, hands, toes, lips to name a few. Having a small arsenal of spray, stick, and lotion can make it easy to reach all these places without having sticky hands. Many “daily lotions” have sunscreen in them, buy them. You protect yourself without even thinking about it! Up next: clothing! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is our very first defense and extremely effective in preventing skin cancer. There is a variety of UV ray blocking clothing. Whether you’re strolling down some little street in Venice, climbing the Grand Tetons, swimming in your favorite lake or going to work, the variety of sun protecting clothing is large. You can boost the strength of your clothes’ UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) absorption by washing them with a product from Sun Guard (www.sunguardsunprotection.com); it actually washes in a chemical sun block that offers UPF 30 and lasts through 20 washes! www.skincancerfoundation.org.
Until next week, sunny skies! Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades Writer and Social Media Correspondent Fitness Professional thewritefit.us Twitter: @ATweetFit