By Alanna Brown, LuxEco Editorial Assistant
The hot sand between your toes, the refreshing cool water splashing against your legs, the high sun warm on your face. Summer is approaching fast and the beaches beckon us in all their golden glory. But before you rush off in your swimsuit, take the necessary precautions to make sure you safely celebrate the season.
I know your mother nagged you about ultra-violet rays as you capered the beach or poolside through childhood summers… And it was always just when you were halfway out the door, your friends calling to you from the lawn. Well, here I am to nag you again. Or, you can view this as a friendly, potentially life-saving reminder. While the sun beautifies and strengthens us with a moderate dose of vitamin D, too much of anything can be bad; the possible danger of prolonged exposure to sunlight is no exception and begets varying degrees of detriment.
One article on this topic notifies us of the more common harms, beginning with your standard sunburn. It is possible for sunburn to be minor, affecting only the surface layer of skin, and it is also possible for the burn to penetrate multiple layers of skin, leaving serious skin damage in its wake. Dehydration is also a threat. “Exposure to the sun dries us out,” the article says, and insufficient hydration could cause shock and possibly death. Then there’s heat exhaustion, which is a result of our bodies’ heightened core temperature combined with dehydration. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, another life-threatening condition that produces hot, flushed, dry skin, shortness of breath, and possible seizures, and requires immediate medical attention. The final ailment this article cautions us about is water intoxication, or hyponatremia, which happens when you sweat all day and only consume water, causing a precarious electrolyte imbalance.
If we do not heed these common warning signs that our bodies give us, more serious and difficult to treat ailments may follow. Early aging and skin cancer are a couple of them. Another article, entitled “Teens: Tanning – Dangers of Too Much Sun” discusses the potential harm of tanning from a young age. Darrel Rigel M.D., a clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University, is quoted saying, “There is no such thing as a safe tan. [The body tans] because [it] is being injured by ultraviolet radiation that hits it. This causes the body to make melanin, a natural sunscreen. So to get tan, you must get injured first.”
The UV light, which comes in two forms—UVA and UVB—can be harmful when delivered via direct sunlight, filtered through clouds, reflected off of snow, or from artificial sunlight (i.e. tanning beds). “UVA speeds up skin aging by causing changes in the skin’s collagen, the protein in the skin’s connective tissue,” the article says. “The more exposure, the more wrinkles.” As for cancer, there are three major types to be cautious of: malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, with melanoma as the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society tells us that the overall lifetime risk of getting melanoma is 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 1,000 for blacks, and 1 in 200 for Hispanics. Even though incident rates for fatal skin cancer have continued to rise over the last 30 years, there are preventative measures you can take.
Wear a hat or a light, long-sleeved layer when you know you will be out in the sun, bring an umbrella to the beach, and wear non-toxic safe sunscreen. Mom didn’t stop you at the threshold to summer freedom and slather you with that goop for her own health…she did it for yours. Continue this practice, and also be sure to choose your sunscreen wisely.