Monday, June 01, 2015

Sun Awareness Week

Good morning, dear readers! :D

I was recently contacted by Oscar Insurance (whom you can find more about here), and was informed of National Sun Awareness Week (June 1st-June 7th, or June 1st-8th depending on the organization).  

I think sun protection is extremely important, so after some conversation with them, a blog post was created to bring more information available to my readers.

Even though we all know that sunlight can be very damaging, many of us still disregard these warnings and do little to protect ourselves from ultraviolet radiation.

I like using the longer term, as the shortened "UV rays" doesn't sound as bad as the reality of what it is: radiation.


(Image from here.)

Skin cancer is a very scary and very real danger, and I personally know at least two people who have had it.  One of my family members is one of those people, and while he was lucky and had the non-life threatening kind, he still had to have surgery and now has scars on his face from where they had to remove it, and from where they removed and added skin grafts.  Not only that, but it's actually come back since then :(.

It's easy to go about life thinking that the terrible things that can happen in the world won't "really" happen to us, or those close to us.  But I've personally known at least 5(!) people who have had different types of cancer, several of which are family, and extremely sadly, one of those people (my grandmother) died from it.  I don't know a huge amount of people, so having that many diagnosed with cancer out of the relatively small group of people I know is really saying something.  This is a very real and very serious risk that is only getting more and more prevalent in the world today.

Not only do we have the life-threatening risks, but ultraviolet radiation promotes skin irritation, premature aging (wrinkles! sunspots!), and cataracts.

So what can we do?  Work on things to make ourselves healthier, and at a lower risk.  I know this sounds funny coming from someone who has had a history of smoking for 16 years (don't even get me started on that), but that's even more reason for me to protect myself from the Sun's rays, as I've already exposed myself to the ridiculous dangers of that horrible habit.

Some of the ways I avoid sunlight is by wearing big hats and sunglasses, sunblock/sunscreen, and taking my daily walks either in the evening, or really early in the morning instead of when the sun is at its zenith, and when the ultraviolet index is at its highest.

I'm not a saint, I've been known to be lax on wearing sunscreen, and I know that I need to improve that.  Last summer I didn't wear it, and even though I didn't go outside in the sunlight very often, the times I did resulted in a big influx of freckles! :O  If it did that to my skin, enough that its effects were that visual, what else was it doing in invisible ways?

One of my favourite sunscreens is Banana Boat Sport Performance 50+ spray (the one that says Powerstay Technology TM).  

(Later edit: I saw the EWG saying that several sunscreens have bad ingredients, and some of the Banana Boat ones were on that list.  For the main two ingredients listed as being dangerous, retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone, those are not present in this particular spray (at least not here in Canada where I purchased it).  

I know there are mixed reactions for EWG's reviews as some believe that they have a political agenda or that they don't investigate things as well as they should and are quick to slap a hazardous tag on things.  I'm not sure either way as I am personally not a chemist and do not have all the information on studies.  I suggest doing your own research to tell what products and ingredients are good for you and you are comfortable using.  

An example for EWG's rating system would be "fragrance", which is listed at a very high hazardous rate of 8.  While I know that fragrances can be made with dangerous ingredients, not all of them are, and as companies generally don't have to list exactly what they use in their fragrances there is no way of telling how hazardous it is without the recipe.  So while they could definitely be made with hazardous materials, they aren't always and automatically putting the "danger" at a level 8 without actually knowing the ingredients is incorrect.  While I understand that it is important to be on the safe side, they could be mislabeling perfectly good cosmetics.  

Another reason they listed the spray sunscreens as hazardous is because of the higher possibility of inhaling the product, and I do agree with that.  It is very easy to do, so if you do use them, I suggest using them outdoors and while holding your breath/walking away after spraying to get out of the "cloud".)

For those of you who hate thick and sticky sunscreens and sunblocks, Japanese brands tend to be a lot more watery and lightweight, and I would suggest giving those a try.

More things you can do:

If you have noticed any changes in moles or skin, don't hesitate to bring it up with your GP, who can recommend a dermatologist.  Early detection is a literal lifesaver!  

Keep an eye on the weather network, as it uses the ultraviolet index to inform the public about when UV rays are at their highest in the day, and if possible, plan around spending long times outside at the peak.


(Image from here)

When you buy sunglasses (protect those peepers!  Cataracts and cancer are NOT fun!), make sure that they protect against both UVA and UVB.  Did you know there are UVC rays as well?  Luckily, these are filtered by Earth's atmosphere (in particular the ozone layer), so right now none of the UVC rays reach us.  



(Image from here.)

Make sure that you are applying the right amount of sunscreen to your body (most people don't apply enough).  According to skincancer.org, the proper amount is about "two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimetre of skin" which is "the equivalent of a shot glass (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of the face and body - a  nickel-sized dollop to the face alone.  If you are using a spray, apply until an even sheen appears on the skin.  Remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently after swimming, heavy perspiration, or towelling off."

Be sure to protect yourself at all times of the year.  You may be covered up in the winter, but especially for any skin that is exposed, the UV rays can still reach you.  In fact, they bounce off of snow and ice and then you get more from all sorts of directions.

What do you like to do to prevent sun damage?  What are your favourite sunscreens/sunblocks?

Have a wonderful (and safe!) day! :D

-Ash

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