I admit to this vanity: I love my café con leche skin.
In the summer, after some time at the ocean, I spend a little extra time primping and admiring the tint of more café and less leche that come with some time spent sun worshipping. But I do so with not a small trace of worry.
The sun is dangerous. The UV rays that produce the sun-kissed look are also those that produce premature aging of the skin. Not so sexy to pay for a brown delight today with deep wrinkles tomorrow. This thought is what reminds me to be aggressive about using sunscreen — and none of that number 2 protection! I usually go for the 50 UVA and UVB bottles, keeping in mind the specter of the future me, lined with deep furrows in my lovely brown skin.
Yet there is a more sinister consequence of sunbathing or lack of proper protection.
Skin cancer caused by exposure to sun over time is a real health concern and one that is too often ignored. Skin cancer accounts for an enormous percentage of diagnosed cancers in the United States. There are three different types of the disease: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. People may know about melanoma, it is an often deadly form of cancer, but the other two types are less well known and should be regarded with the same amount of caution. The sun is responsible for up to 90 percent of skin cancers. It is negligent not to take the proper precautions when spending time outdoors. Careful selection of sunscreen, proper and frequent application and protective clothing are all weapons in the fight to keep yourself healthy.
Do not assume that a cloudy day exempts you from your efforts at protection. The UVA and UVB rays penetrate through the clouds and can still cause damage.
Do not forget your eyes. These sensitive organs are affected by the sun and should be protected with sunglasses that are designed to filter damaging rays. Without proper prevention, eyes could suffer from cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia, and photokeratitis.
Adults are not the only ones at risk for ocular diseases. Not only will children’s sunglasses make your little ones look adorable, but they will protect your precious ones’ eyes and help set up early habits for them to understand the need for consistent protection.
Children are especially vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. As with so many of the organ systems, children’s skin is tender and developing and therefore more at risk when exposed to carcinogens. Protecting them from the harm of the sun is not only crucial for their current and future well-being, but it sets up habits that they will then hopefully follow as they learn to protect themselves. Seeing parents who care for their own skin also sets the example.
Finally, do not assume that tanning beds are safer. These little hot beds of cancer are just as if not more dangerous than the real deal.
Be safe out there, mi gente!