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Sun Damage Prevention: How to Protect Your Skin and Eyes

We may love to feel and see the sunshine, but the reality is that that big ball of fire can cause irreparable damage to our eyes and to our skin. In fact, doctors agree that sun damage can contribute to 80% of skin aging — more than smoking, dehydration, and lack of sleep. So if you’re trying to take care of your body but are skimping on the sun protection, listen up: you’ve got to block out those harmful rays, no matter the weather outside.

There are two types of ultraviolet rays from the sun that reach the earth: UVA and UVB. Both types have the potential to damage your skin, though they do so in different ways. UVA rays typically cause wrinkles, sun spots, and signs of premature aging, along with skin cancer. UVB rays are also linked to skin cancer, but they’re also associated with sunburns, as they damage the top layer of your skin. You won’t want to suffer the effects of either type, so you need to do everything you can to protect yourself.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer in the United States, with approximately one in five Americans developing this type of cancer in their lifetime. For that reason alone, you should be using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. But even if you’re using the right type of sunscreen, you might not actually be applying it properly. The layer of sunscreen you apply needs to be thick enough to cover all exposed skin; most adults need around one ounce of sunblock to cover themselves entirely. It also needs to be reapplied every two to three hours (or even more frequently, if you’re sweating or are exposed to water).

Keep in mind that sunscreen alone won’t protect your skin from damage. Staying out of the sun during peak hours — which are typically between 10 am and 2 pm — can help prevent skin damage and other undesirable health symptoms. Wearing proper protective clothing is a must, as well. A big hat always comes in handy, as will sunglasses. According to nonprofit eye health and safety group Prevent Blindness, UV rays can result in corneal sunburn and damage linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, cancer, and eye growths. So don’t leave those sunnies at home, even if it’s cloudy outside and especially if you’ll be driving. Not only will this keep you safe on the road, but it’ll also protect your eye health in the long term.

Whether you’re a sun-worshipper or not, it’s a good idea to get your skin checked out by a dermatologist on a fairly regular basis — particularly if you’ve noticed any recent changes. They’ll be able to detect the signs of skin aging and of features like moles and potential cancers to ensure you can take action early. But of course, prevention is the best course of action. So stock up on sunblock, lather it on, and limit your time in the sunshine. You might not be thrilled about covering up and staying in the shade right now, but you’ll be grateful you did in the future.

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