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UV Light and the Sun Controversy

Summer Tips: UV Light and the Sun Controversy

The beach holds a special place in many of our hearts, and most of us associate it with fun, energy, play, and everything that is special about summer. On the other hand, there is a new narrative that tells us that the sun is dangerous, and exposure can lead to premature aging, various skin problems and skin cancer. What are we to make of all this?

Like most things in life, it's about finding balance and knowing the important facts. The sun is not something to be maligned, and the beach need not be avoided at all costs as some might suggest. It is important to understand the basic facts about sun damage, and skin aging, and to act on it. Most of us are aware of the dangers of excess sun exposure, but as a reminder:

  • UV light causes sunburns when the skin is exposed to too much of it in a short amount of time. Acute sunburns can become serious, causing fever and malaise in addition to the more usual pain, blisters, reddening and skin peeling.
  • UV light accelerates the aging process in the skin. If you think of aging as a one-way meter that can't be stopped, sun exposure is one of the main factors that speeds this process up.
  • UV light from the sun is a carcinogen, and can increase the chances of developing certain skin cancers later in life. Other skin problems such as brown spots, wrinkling, and drying skin are also heavily influenced by sun exposure.

Most of us have been exposed to media that warns us against sun exposure, and the evidence clearly supports limiting sun exposure. There is really no controversy as far as these facts are concerned. However, this doesn't mean that we need to be locked up in our basement fearing the sun.

  • Our bodies require a certain amount of sun exposure to produce Vitamin D, and extreme measures to avoid sunlight can result in serious deficiencies.
  • The danger is not in individual events, but a change in lifestyle which leads to repeated and continuous exposures which accumulate over time. Most people can afford a one-off luxury such as buying bottled water that costs $10 a bottle-taken individually. If we regularly bought $10 bottled waters, however, you can see how bad it would be at the end of the year.
  • There isn't any reason to fear the beach, as long as you understand the facts, and have good sun habits. Wear long sleeves, apply plenty of sunscreen, and be aware of how long you are in the sun for.
  • Avoid the sun tanning salons. There are simply safer and more effective ways to have the tanned look without damaging your skin under artificial (but just as dangerous) light.

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