The Skin Cancer Foundation warns against exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This radiation causes DNA damage, which allows genes to mutate, causing cancer. Ninety percent of all non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by radiation from the sun. Up to 65% of melanoma is caused by the sun. Sunburn is the first symptom of over-exposure to the sun’s radiation. Multiple burns and exposures to high levels of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation increase the likelihood of skin cancer. To help avoid this radiation exposure doctors and scientists recommend covering up before heading out into the sun; wearing a hat and long sleeves. Regular and effective use of sunscreen is also recommended.
Yet selecting a sunscreen can seem an overwhelming task. In the stores rows and rows of bottles with a wide range of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) levels, chemical content line the shelves. Sunscreen sticks, sprays, creams and gels promise protection. As a consumer, it is often difficult to understand which product offers the best protection. Furthermore, according to Outside magazine many sunscreens on the market are not effective at all. Up to 25% of sunscreens on the market do not protect the skin, in spite of last year’s sunscreen regulation reform enacted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Sunscreens, when effective, are designed to combine numerous products, either natural or chemical, to prevent UV radiation from reaching the skin. UV radiation consists of two different kinds of waves. Ultraviolet A is a longer UV ray, with more lasting skin damage, which UVB is a shorter ray, which causes sunburns, and is also responsible for cancers. When shopping for a good sunscreen, look for a sunscreen with Broad-Spectrum protection. This ensures that the lotion will protect from both forms of radiation. Check the label the sunscreen bottle to avoid purchasing any sunscreen with retinyl palmitate, a known toxin, or oxybenzone. Likewise, many experts recommend against sprays and powders, due to problems in application and efficacy. Tanning oils are not sunscreen and ought to be avoided.
Unfortunately, despite diligent sunscreen use, burns happen to the best of us. Outside magazine ran an article on June 6th, 2014 highlighting foods that combat free radicals caused by over radiation from the sun. Author Rachel Shultz explains that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C and A, particularly tomatoes, helped reduce the effects of UV exposure by up to 33%. Dark leafy greens, carrots and cantaloupe were also shown to help protect skin. However, these results were most prominent in those who had been on this diet for 8 weeks prior to sun exposure. Which we here at Aspen Club and Spa interpret as just one more reason to eat lots of fruits and vegetables year round!