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Sun Safety and How the Sun Affects Various Skin Tones of Color

Updated on August 31, 2014
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There's one in every group of friends - the one that never seems to get sun-burned while everyone else is as red as a lobster. Half of the group will brave the sun with only brief periods of baring their skin, while the other half of the group will be covered from head to toe. Meanwhile our un-burned one has been shirtless and in the water playing all day.

So why is this so? We'll take a look at this question, and others about our skin, and the effects that the sun can have on us. Here are a few topics that we'll follow up on:

  • Sun Damage to Skin
  • Different Skin Color
  • Skin Cancer Education
  • Sun Safety Tips
  • Sun Safety for Kids

At canoe regatta at Keehi Lagoon, Hawii.  Even overcast days can be harmful to your skin.
At canoe regatta at Keehi Lagoon, Hawii. Even overcast days can be harmful to your skin. | Source

Sun Damage to Skin

In Hawaii where the sun seems to bite a little harder than most other parts of the country, you can see facial sun damage to many of our islanders. To some, pre-aging runs rampant in their faces, while for others it seems to complement their skin and give them a healthy glow. The men that spend their days on their fishing boats have thick leathery dark skin. For many of them, they have never used sun-block or sunscreen before.

It's the ultraviolet rays, or UV rays from the sun that actually do all the damage to your skin. The UV rays damage the collagen in your skin - that's what keeps your skin tight, smooth and flexible. Your skin when damaged responds with wrinkles. Once the collagen in your skin is damaged, there is no way to repair it. Further, studies show that up to 80% of the wrinkles in your face could be due to sun damage.

Freckles and sun spots (which appear a little lighter than the rest of your skin) is actually skin damage. And no matter how healthy a tan looks, it is still skin damage. If you've had at least two serious sunburns in your life, it increases the chances of getting skin cancer.

Source

Be Aware of Sun Exposure During these Periods:

Areas
Locations for Example
Higher Levels of UV Rays During this Period
Northern
Oregon/Washington, Dakotas, Maine, etc.
April 1 - September 30
Mid
California, Alabama, Tennessee, etc
March 1 - October 31
Southern
Mexico, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, etc.
Year-round Awareness
 
 
 
This is the time span in these areas that the UV index reaches or exceeds the moderate level. This should only be used as a guide, and subject to change.
Pigmentation in the skin actually gives you a little advantage against the sun's harmful rays over people with very fair skin.
Pigmentation in the skin actually gives you a little advantage against the sun's harmful rays over people with very fair skin. | Source

Different Skin Color

You may have heard that for people of color, the sun goes a little easier on them. This is because of a pigment in the skin called 'melanin'. Of course those that have low levels of melanin easily suffer from sunburns - most Caucasians know that this is only too true. However, there are those like my wife that are Asian, but have very fair skin - in this case, she would also be more of a candidate to sunburn than say her brother whose skin is much darker.

Darker skin which contain melanin has skin protection factor, or SPF, but I wouldn't put such a high number on it that it would be of any protection at all. Though darker skin may sound like it has advantages, it actually has a very serious drawback: Darker skin makes it harder to spot moles, and abnormalities on the skin that would normally draw medical attention to in those that have lighter skin. Also with darker skin, the moles and lesions in question become harder to spot because they also change in color and can sometimes blend with the skin pigment.

A rule to remember whether or not you have light or darker skin, is that whenever you go outside, remember to put on a good quality sun block that's at least SPF 30.

The Sunburn Poll

How many serious sunburns have you had in your life time?

See results
A mole of interest that answers to the ABCD rule, and should be checked out.
A mole of interest that answers to the ABCD rule, and should be checked out. | Source

Skin Cancer Education

The first thing you need to do is to get to know your body - you should be able to inspect every inch of your body. You will be looking for any moles, or patches that you didn't see before, or never knew you had. If you have a significant other, they can also help to spot any new changes to your skin, but you yourself should know what is going on with your own body. Grab a hand mirror, and with the aid of a wardrobe mirror and lights this should be all you need to make a good inspection of your body. Start from the feet, soles, between the toes and work your way up your body. A good inspection of between the buttocks, and around your private areas, up the torso, and into your head. Use a comb to part your hair and inspect your head - you might want to get assistance with that part. If you're all clear, good job! Do it again in 6 months.

If you found something, or at a later time should something turn up, run it through the ABCD rule.

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • Border. The edges are ragged and blurred.
  • Color. The mole has uneven shades brown, tan, red, black, white or blue.
  • Diameter. Significant change in size (greater than 6mm).

If there is any change in your mole, or shaded spots, or whatever, you should ask your doctor about it. The key to skin cancer is early detection. The odds are against you if you find out too late. A note to those with skin of color - it sometimes makes it harder to see these little changes on your skin which is why you should take care to make a good inspection of your body. Remember, these moles can pop up anywhere - even under your feet. Note any changes, and see your doctor if you have any concerns.

I don't usually fish in 20' surf, but when I do, I fish in a long sleeve, big brimmed hat and approved sunglasses ( both knocked off by waves).
I don't usually fish in 20' surf, but when I do, I fish in a long sleeve, big brimmed hat and approved sunglasses ( both knocked off by waves). | Source

Sun Safety Tips

Of course an important tip would be to use sun screen, but did you know that most sun screen lotions protect against UVB rays and not against UVA rays. UVB rays are responsible Burning the upper layers of skin. UVA rays are responsible for damaging the layers deeper down and will Age the skin. With this information, you want to protect yourself from both A and B ultraviolet rays. You need what is called a Broad-Spectrum sun screen. Make sure that the sun screen lotion that you use has the term Broad-Spectrum in plain view on it's label.

You should know that sunscreen needs a little time to work into the skin layer in order to do it's job of protecting your skin. It can take up to 30 minutes for sunscreen to work for your skin. Re-application is needed for most after perspiration, or after swimming. Re-apply every two hours, and always use sunscreen unsparingly.

We sometime forget that lips, are skin too, and they are just as prone to sunburn. To prevent this, use a SPF 15 lip balm for protection, and re-apply often.

There are clothes and hats that have sun protection factors to protect your head and body from the sun, and don't forget to also protect your eyes from the harmful ultraviolet rays too.

Protect Your Body from Harmful UVB and UVA rays

Protect your body
Protect your head
Protect your eyes
Sunscreen Broad Spectrum
Sunscreen Broad Spectrum
Wrap-around lens will provide most protection
Use SPF 30 or higher
Use SPF 30 or higher
Lens that protect 99-100% from UVA and UVB rays
use lavishly 1/2 hour prior
Use lip balm SPF 15 or higher
 
Use SPF Clothing
Use SPF hats with wide brim
 
This is Ka'imi, he is not normally this dark, but this particular year he spent a LOT of time in the sun.
This is Ka'imi, he is not normally this dark, but this particular year he spent a LOT of time in the sun. | Source

Sun Safety for Kids

Sunscreen on kids is the best and the worst that you can put on your kids - only because not enough of the sunscreen is being applied to the body to sufficiently shield it from the harmful rays of the sun. If you toss a tube over to little Johnny to have him apply the sunscreen himself, you can imagine what kind of coverage he will end up with. In these cases where we misapply sunscreen to our bodies, we are assuming that we are covered when we are really not. If you do use sunscreen to prevent sunburns, use SPF 30 or higher, use lavishly, and coat evenly.

Protect kid's eyes with sunglasses that protect against UVB and UVA rays. This is something that you rarely see - a kid with sunglasses. But this is something that we need to change, especially in the Southern hemispheres.

Cover them up! Hats with brims, long sleeve shirts and pants that will keep them protected is good defense. As parents, we almost always forget that our children's heads can be exposed to direct sun - burns can just as easily occur on the head than on the body.

Klammath Falls, Oregon - the lake frozen over, under a sun that can still burn your skin.
Klammath Falls, Oregon - the lake frozen over, under a sun that can still burn your skin. | Source

Comments

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    • KawikaChann profile image
      Author

      KawikaChann 5 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Lol... I know what you mean, my tan has faded fast over the last few weeks... I'll try to get back to Hawaii before March. Peace. Kawi.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. When I was young I tanned nicely Now my skin reflects sunlight. I can make you blind in sunlight.

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