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Sun protection

Conley Boyd

Cycling in the Sun

The Good ~ 10 minutes twice a week of casual sun exposure in the summer months can maintain your vitamin D levels. In addition to bone health, Vitamin D promotes the creation of serotonin which provides the sensations of happiness, well being and serenity.

The Bad Excess sun causes various skin cancers and other skin issues, as well as premature aging and sunburn. A bad sunburn in young people can cause serious issues in later adult life. Check your skin regularly for changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, and spots. Such changes are a sign of skin cancer.

The Ugly All UV radiation causes damage to collagen fibers and accelerate wrinkling and “aging” of the skin. Both UVA and UVB destroy vitamin A in the skin which may cause further damage.

Eye protection (Use quality wraparound sunglasses)

The primary controllable factor in the progression cataracts is ultraviolet light. The damage is slow, insidious, cumulative and irreversible. The goal is to slow the progress to keep it from becoming significant in your lifetime.

Ordinary, untreated eye glasses give some protection. Most plastic lenses give more protection than glass lenses, because glass is transparent to UVA and the common acrylic plastic used for lenses is less so. Some plastic lens materials, such as polycarbonate inherently block most UV.

If it is labeled as, “Sunglasses” it has to meet government regulations for ultraviolet (UV) protection which should be adequate, going to 99% or 100% is overkill but the more, the better. Cheap sunglasses may simply have a protective spray coating on the surface which can wear off over time, as opposed to being baked into the lens. Wrap around sunglasses are best since UV can come in from any angle. Be especially mindful from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunscreen (Properly apply broad spectrum SPF 15+ even on cloudy days and tan lightly)

Choose your risk level. Look for a water-resistant formula (40 minutes water exposure) or very water-resistant (80 minutes), broad-spectrum with an SPF 30 or higher. You will need to re-apply every ~2 hours. 

Anything beyond modest exposure to the sun is not good for your skin, but if you think it makes you look cool, a modest tan can can do that and act as a good sunscreen, effective and always with you. Build it up slowly over time with short, controlled exposures depending on your sensitivity and use a skin lotion (with no sun block). Other than those controlled exposures, protect yourself from the sun.

UVB: Sun Protection Factor (SPF) offers some calibration of strength, but only for UVB. With SPF 2 it will take you twice as long to get sunburn, SPF 4, four times as long. Properly applied and re-applied an SPF 15 allows you to lay in the sun from dawn till dusk without burning. You shouldn’t need any more than that unless you supplement with a tanning bed, in which case sunburn is the least of your problems. Nonetheless an SPF over 15 could provide more protection in the event that it isn’t applied correctly.

UVA: UVA is weaker than UVB, but there is more of it, it penetrates more deeply, it is not as easy to calibrate and it doesn’t cause sunburn. The latter is a problem because you might not use sunscreen on a cloudy day, unawares of the unseen and unfelt danger while UVA is insidiously causing damage in lower skin layers. When choosing a sunscreen look for “Broad spectrum” or better yet “Maximum broad spectrum” on the label. Don’t forget your ears, and for your lips (Lower lip especially). Use Gel based lip sunscreen or lip balm.

UV can be confusing but think of A for aging and B for burning. Look for a sunscreen SPF 15 or higher and “Broad spectrum” protection. The most effective are the physical blockers like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, often thought of as “Clown paint”. They are very effective and available in fun colors if you’re into that kind of thing.

Sunburn Treatment: Serious sunburn requires a doctor’s attention, otherwise there are thing to do and NOT to do. Keep in mind that the damage is done and all you can do is help your skin recover while avoiding anything to make it worse. Your skin needs to replenish its natural oils, avoid water. If you insist on a cool comforting bath, use an oily bath additive. Use an oil based hypoallergenic skin lotion. FYI ointments are oil bases, creams and lotions are oil emulsified in water and gels are water or alcohol based. Ointments are best, creams and lotions are good and more pleasant to use, water base things should be avoided, such as Corn Huskers and aloe, yes they are cooling and offer temporary relief but not the best for your skin. An alcohol-based gel would be both damaging and painful. Ibuprofen or other “NSAIDS” can reduce inflammation and perhaps antioxidants are useful too.

Mouse Pee is Ultraviolet: Some birds have an extra color receptor allowing them to see into the ultraviolet range. A hawk can use that ability to find prey by spotting mouse pee which reflects ultraviolet. Bees can see ultraviolet in flowers which look plain white to our eyes.