The Skin You’re In

It can be dry.  It can be smooth.  It can be dark.  It can be light.  It can be pale.  It can be calloused or blotchy.  It can be freckled or scarred.  It can be tattooed or sunburned.   It can be considered the container for the human body.

No matter what it looks or feels like, it is always this:  the largest organ of the human body.

Summertime is sun time.  Most of us expose much more skin in the summertime than in the winter, mostly for comfort and coolness, but also for sun tanning.

In American culture, tanned skin is generally seen as a positive thing.  It hasn’t always been this way, however, especially for women.  In earlier days, this was seen as less than feminine, and it was not desirable for women.

A sun tan, while often looked at as a sign of health, is actually a sign of already-damaged skin.

The term “redneck” has its origins in sun tanned/burned skin.  An outdoor manual laborer was typically wearing a t-shirt, which created a sunburn on the back of the neck.  Thus, a “redneck.”

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With the increased sun exposure in the summer, skin care safety becomes increasingly important.

We have all heard it before:

  • wear sunscreen
  • wear a hat
  • wear long sleeves and pants
  • wear lip balm with sunscreen in it
  • stay out of the sun during peak hours, if possible (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
  • re-apply sunscreen frequently
  • put sunscreen in out-of-the way places, like the tops of your ears
  • drink lots of water when you are in the sun
    • At the risk of sounding like a broken record—or your mother, or both, it bears repeating:  all of these tips are important to prevent sunburn and/or permanent skin damage.

      When my son was about four years old, we not only put sunscreen on him, we told him what it was.  To him, however, it was “skin scream,” which is exactly what your skin will do if you don’t use it.

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      There are several acronyms commonly used with sunscreen:

      • SPF:  Sun Protection Factor
      • UVA:  Ultraviolet A rays
      • UVB:  Ultraviolet B rays

      Both UVA and UVB rays damage the skin, with continuing research to bear that out.  Both penetrate the atmosphere and play an important role in premature aging of the skin, damage to the eyes and skin cancers.  They also reduce your immune system strength.  Most sunscreen labels spell out the coverage for each kind of ray, but broad spectrum on the label means it covers both.

      While using sunscreen, there are several important factors to keep in mind:

      • The lower the number, the less protection offered.
      • Experts recommend using nothing lower than 30.  The numbers may be misleading as the claims that they let you stay in the sun for a certain amount of time can be hard to measure.  So, a safe bet is to use a number at 30 or higher.
      • Re-apply often.  Every 2 hours is recommended.
      • No sunscreen is water-proof or sweat-proof; thus, the recommendations to re-apply after 2 hours.
      • Babies younger than six months should be kept out of the sun.  The use of sunscreen is not recommended for them due to potential skin reactions.
      • It is increasingly being disproven that “most” skin damage is done at an early age, as was once thought.   It is a cumulative effect, much like smoking.  The sooner you change the negative habit, the more good it will do you.
      • Clouds block only about 20% of damaging rays, so sunscreen is necessary on cloudy days too.
      • Darker-skinned people are at risk as well, and often, their cancers go undiagnosed or ignored because of the idea that they are not at risk.
      • Light-skinned and light-haired people are, of course, at high risk.

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      Summertime, of course, is peak season for sun exposure.  However, sun exposure in other seasons should not be ignored.  Spring, fall and winter bring on their own breed of sun exposure, depending upon the activity.

      • Snow sports create a need for sunscreen on exposed areas like the face and lips.
      • Using sunscreen while traveling to unfamiliar climates should always be a rule.
      • Exposure through a car window to the arms can add up.  Be aware of this as you drive throughout the year.
      • Many facial moisturizers have sunscreen, and should be used daily, year-round.

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      Many of us have an attitude of invincibility toward sun damage, and skin cancer may be the furthest thing from what we think is possible.  None of us, however, are exempt from the risk.  Be wise, and slather it on generously and frequently.Use sunscreen so that your skin doesn’t scream.