It’s finally here—the warm sunshine of spring and summer! Minnesotans are trading their winter hats for baseball caps and mittens for gardening gloves. Before skipping outside to enjoy some sunshine, though, be sure to slather on some sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
The sun constantly emits ultraviolet, or UV, rays, some of which penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and reach Earth’s surface. They are strongest at midday during the spring and summer due to the sun’s angle. Latitude and altitude also affect the strength of UV rays. The closer to the equator we are, the stronger the rays are, and the higher we are, the stronger the rays because there is less atmosphere to absorb them.
UV Rays and Your Health
Some UV ray exposure is beneficial to us. Sunshine helps us generate vitamin D, an essential nutrient. Too much sun exposure, however, can cause a variety of health conditions. UV rays can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, premature skin aging, and a suppressed immune system.
Fortunately, you can avoid too much sun and UV ray exposure with a few simple steps. Use a sunscreen lotion with a SPF of 30 and cover your skin to block out the sun’s rays. Instead of sun tanning, sit in the shade. Avoid tanning beds, too.
Sunscreen can be a helpful tool in avoiding UV ray-related health conditions. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Here are a few things to avoid when choosing your family’s next bottle:
• spray sunscreens, because of incomplete coverage and risk to health if inhaled
• high SPF factors, since they give a false sense of security because they do not block UVA rays, only UVB ones, and may lead people to spend more time in the sun
• oxybenzone, because it may act as an estrogen if it is absorbed by the skin and enters the bloodstream
• retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, since it can accelerate the development of tumors and lesions if used on skin exposed to sun