We all love to have beautiful, healthy skin, and most of us love the look of tanned and glowing skin. Unfortunately, the sun can cause long term damage to our skin at the same time it gives us a short term beauty boost. The two main negative effects of sun exposure are aging and increased risk for skin cancer.
Exposure to sun accelerates many of the processes we associate with aging. Over time, ultraviolet light from the sun damages the elastin in our skin. This damage reduces our skin’s firmness and causes it to sag. It can also lead to increased wrinkles, fine lines, and freckles. According to skincancer.org, over 90% of visible changes in skin are caused by exposure to the sun. The best way to keep skin looking young and healthy is to protect it from the sun.
Even more seriously, sun exposure significantly increases the risk for skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States, and ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun or tanning beds is its number one cause. In fact, research has shown that approximately 86% of melanoma (the most dangerous kind of skin cancer) is caused by exposure to UV radiation. Some kinds of skin cancer can be treated fairly easily, with surgery to remove cancerous skin and tumors. Melanoma, however, is very dangerous, requires thorough treatment, and can lead to death.
The most effective way to prevent damage from sun exposure, apart from never leaving your house, is regularly applying sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks UV rays from reaching the skin and protects your skin from the negative effects of sun exposure. On average, people who apply sunscreen daily show 24% less aging in their skin than those who do not apply sunscreen (source). You should choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and higher if you have fairer skin. Sunscreen should be applied every day, in both hot and cold weather. If you are outside a lot, it is best to reapply sunscreen every 3 hours to keep your skin protected. If you wear sunscreen every day, you can protect your skin from premature aging and greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer.