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The Summer Sun
Chances are that you will swim outdoors at some point this summer. Whether you swim under the sun here, or in our beloved Greece, protecting your skin is critical to your health now, and in the long term. Let’s discuss sun exposure and how it relates to you.
The sun’s rays feel good, but they’re no friend to your skin. Though you won’t see it right away, they give you wrinkles and age spots, and they’re the top cause of skin cancer.
Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light harms fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag and stretch. It also bruises and tears more easily, taking longer to heal.
Spending too much time in the sun can also give your skin freckles, rough texture, white spots, a yellowing of the skin, and discolored areas of the skin (which doctors call “mottled pigmentation”). It can also widen small blood vessels under your skin.
1. Not too much and not too Little Sunshine
Everyone needs a threshold level of sun exposure to maintain sufficient Vitamin D levels in the body. That threshold is estimated to be around 15 minutes outdoors on a mildly sunny day (time varies slightly with skin tone). This will allow UV-B rays to hit the skin and trigger a reaction in the skin cells that produces Vitamin D. During summer, this is less of a concern than in winter.
On the other hand, and more importantly, sun exposure puts us at risk of developing acute sunburns as well as accumulated over-exposure. UV light hits your body from every direction in the water because it gets reflected off the bottom of a pool for example, and on the surface of the water. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen on at least 15 minutes before entering the water. Any sunscreen around SPF 30 will be sufficient. The key to sunscreen has less to do with the SPF value and more to do with reapplying it throughout the day. If you are at an outdoors continuously be mindful to reapply sunscreen regularly (at least every two hours, more often preferably because it can wash off in the water).
2. Mind your Energy Levels
In addition to the physical toll a meet takes on your body, excessive sun exposure can leave you feeling zapped of energy, dehydrated, and even lightheaded. Stay in the shade as much as possible, and when walking around wear a hat, UV protective sunglasses, and carry a water bottle. After a long day in the sun, you will need to re-hydrate more so than usual.
3. Bad Burns vs. Accumulated Exposure
It is now known that skin cancer can originate from one bad burn in addition to developing from accumulated over-exposure to the sun. Before you start worrying about cancer, remember that family history, skin tone, and other factors like presence of moles play a role in your risk. In the summer, swimmers should just take note of how often they are in the sun, and be responsible about their sunscreen application. Because practices tend to be in the early morning or late afternoon, the strongest rays will not hit you then.
- Wear sunscreen every day, in all weather and in every season. It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 and say “broad-spectrum” on the label, which means it protects against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Put it on at least 15 minutes before going outside. Use 1 ounce, which would fill a shot glass.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats, and long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Avoid being out in the sun as much as possible from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Check your skin regularly so you know what’s normal for you and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Choose cosmetics and contact lenses that offer UV protection. You still need to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses with broad-spectrum sun protection.
- If you’re a parent, protect your child’s skin and practice those habits together.
- Don’t use tanning beds.
HAVE A HAPPY SUMMER!!!