From the beginning of time, the sun has created and sustained life on earth. The sun provides the Vitamin D crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. Even in south Florida’s “winter,” the sun still has a strong effect, and its powerful rays are not something to be taken lightly.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, protecting the body from potentially dangerous substances. Exposure to the sun’s heat increases blood flow in the skin and can heighten the absorption of harmful substances through tiny pores. Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the skin.
As a defense mechanism against sun exposure, the body produces more of the brown pigment called melanin. Melanin offers limited protection against radiation from the sun, so essentially, the tan received from the sun’s rays is the body’s desperate cry for help.
Skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the United States, develops because of skin changes caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays are an invisible form of radiation that come from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. Even a person with naturally dark skin is at risk of developing skin cancer.
Most sun damage occurs when people are young and are yet to see the effects it has on the body. But, as time goes on, people face a rude awakening: wrinkled, saggy, stretched, brown spotted skin and potentially even skin cancer can occur as a result of too much sun radiation. The skin also bruises and tears more easily—taking longer to heal, and even eye damage is possible.
The sun is still a threat even on Miami’s occasionally cooler days and when there is cloud coverage. Wearing hats with a three-inch brim, lightweight and long clothing, and applying sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, 15 minutes before going outside are ways to protect one’s skin. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so to avoid sunburns, it is best to seek shade during those hours.
Of course, the sun also has its benefits. The body relies on sunlight to provide it with Vitamin D. This essential nutrient enhances muscle strength and builds bone, has anti-inflammatory effects, bolsters the immune system, and helps the action of insulin.
Vitamin D also has anti-cancer activity, which is why Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Twenty minutes a day of unprotected sunlight is recommended to sustain healthy levels of this vitamin.
Living in an environment that is sunny and hot year-round requires extreme caution, as nobody wants to have chunks of skin removed because of failure to protect it at an earlier age. It is recommended to check skin for spots or suspicious bumps every six months and go to the doctor regularly.
Nobody wants to look old early, so protecting the skin now is a great way to look younger for longer.