For 21 years I've been telling people to limit sun exposure to help maintain the health of their skin. It seems it is a mantra I have to keep speaking.
I was reminded this week again about the dangers of over exposing the skin to UV radiation.
Until this week I had never been to the Carribean - a sun-drenched vacation has never really been high on my priority list - but I was very lucky to be invited to Cuba for a week and who am I to say no to such a generous invitation. Once I arrived I realized I would need to be extra vigilant at protecting my skin - the sun was high in the sky at 8 am in the morning and by 11 it was very, very dangerous to be outside.
Yet, from my balcony, I could see the pool invaded by sun seekers who remained exposed for the entire day.
By the end of the week the once fair skinned denizens of the resort had turned an array of shades from pink to bright red to deep brown. All of which made me want to add a sun safety lecture to the activities menu.
For the record: I did not get a tan and wore long sleeves and long summer pants all week- I only went to the beach once and that was at 4 in the afternoon as the sun was setting. I did not lay around the pool and, in fact for the last two days (when the weather was the worst) I remained safely in my room until the sun started to set and I knew the UV index was dropping to a safe level. Before you ask "what did I do all day?" let me tell you Cuba has a great many things to offer aside from all day drinking at the swim up bar. How about a guided tour of the historical architecture of the cities, or a day trip to a sustainable farm (which was the highlight of my trip - and I bought fresh coffee beans direct from the plantation), or a walking tour in the mountains to see the Mayari forest and the highest waterfall in Cuba? All of which were activities that had little or no sun exposure for the day.
All that aside - while we all know a sunburn is serious sun damage there are a great many types of serious damage most people ignore. If you are planning a warm weather holiday this winter be aware of this list - it is important:
1. Freckles - people with freckles are more prone to much more serious types of skin damage. Freckles are sun damage unto them selves - an no - no one is born with freckles. They appear as the skin is exposed to UV light. Usually in early childhood. Freckles are always brown in colour and flat in texture.
2. Age Spots - this name is misleading because this discolouration has nothing to do with age. It is a very severe type of sun damage that should be check by a dermatologist annually. Age spots are always flat and dark brown to grey in colour.
3. Actinic Keratosis - often ignored and confused with age spots (which is why age spots should be checked annually) this is precursor to serious skin cancer. This discolouration often appears in clusters on the face, neck, scalp and hands. The definitive difference between AK is that the discolouration is surrounded by obvious red inflammation.
4. Tan - this is serious sun damage. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the body's response to absorbing UV radiation. Period.
5. Wrinkles - 90% of wrinkles are caused by excessive sun exposure. Want to save money on Botox and other anti wrinkle remedies? Avoid excessive sun exposure.
So cover up exposed skin with light UV protective clothing, use a good-quality sunscreen on exposed areas, and maybe take in a museum instead of 7 days straight of high-noon sunbathing at the pool!
Read more from Dan at Beauty Busted.