YOU Magazine - August 2008 - Protecting Yourself from the Sun
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Lyn Bankowski     Lyn Bankowski
AVP/SR. Mortgage Loan Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
Phone: 360-679-5633 / 360-969-5550
Fax: 360-279-1198
License: NMLS#304060 / CL-157293
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
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Protecting Yourself from the Sun

Protecting Yourself from the Sun

A "golden tan" is not only the objective of every sun-worshiper, it's also become an outward indicator of one's overall health. Medically speaking though, these are very dangerous sentiments, especially when you consider the potential ramifications of unprotected exposure to the sun.

The sun produces both visible and invisible rays. Two of the invisible rays, labeled ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), are extremely important to know about. UVA rays are responsible for tanning and wrinkling, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. UVB rays are more dangerous than UVA, but ultimately there is no such thing as a safe UV ray, despite what the attendant at the tanning salon tells you.

According to the CDC, exposure to UV rays is the biggest factor in developing skin cancer. On the rise for the last three decades, cases of skin cancer have increased at a rate of roughly 3 percent every year, making it the most common type of cancer in the United States. Malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is also the most common type of cancer for women between the ages of 25 and 29. Even though it is curable if caught early, when left unattended it can spread to other organs, most commonly the lungs and the liver.

The sun's UV rays are most intense between the hours of 10am and 4pm, and are at their maximum between 12pm and 1pm. They are more harmful during the summer months because heat intensifies their effects. Higher altitudes also influence UV rays, as radiation levels increase 4 to 5 percent every 1,000 feet above sea level. High winds, as well as the reflection off of water, sand and snow, increase their intensity even more.

The very best thing you can do to protect yourself from the sun is to avoid intentional sunbathing altogether, simple as that. However, for those who work in the sun, enjoy outdoor sports, or insist on obtaining that "perfect tan", there are a few things you can do to help your cause.

First, it is imperative that you invest in a quality sunscreen. The best brands contain a UVA blocking ingredient known as avobenzone or Parsol 1789. Look for products with an SPF of at least 15 for the body, and 30 for the face. The bottom line is the more SPF the better, especially for fairer-skinned people.

SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, is determined by exposing human subjects to an indoor light which mimics the noontime sun. The number stands for the amount of time that sunburn is delayed, based on the average person who burns in 10 minutes when unprotected. If your sunscreen is SPF 15, you would be protected from the sun for 150 minutes, or 15 times longer than normal.

It is important to apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before any activity in the sun, allowing time for absorption. It is equally important to reapply it every two hours and more frequently if you are swimming or partaking in strenuous activities. When applying sunscreen, make sure you completely cover your body and face. Commonly overlooked areas are the belly button, under the waste band/straps of a swimsuit, the ears and the lips.

Hats, sunglasses and protective summer-weight clothing are also a must. For headwear, wide-brimmed hats work much better than baseball hats. For sunglasses, make sure they have UV protection as the rays have been linked to everything from cataracts to skin cancer of the eye lids. For clothes, a long-sleeved cotton shirt, loose pants which cover the entire leg and footwear is optimal.

If you decide to spend your day in the sun, make sure you take breaks (especially during mid-day) out of the sun. Seeking refuge in the shade for 5 to 10 minutes every hour helps maintain skin temperature. And whatever you decide, do not bring an infant into the sun. Infants under six months aren't supposed to be wearing sunscreen at all, making them even more susceptible to sun damage.

For the average sunburn there are several methods of relieving the pain. It's important to know the effects of sunburn begin appearing within 3 to 6 hours after exposure and hit their maximum somewhere around the 24-hour mark.

If within that time the skin blisters or the sunburn is accompanied by fever, chills, vomiting or confusion, you need to see a doctor right away. If it simply hurts, here's the game plan:

Start by taking a cool bath mixed with ½ C of baking soda. Do not use any soap or first-aid anesthetic products containing benzocaine as they can cause irritation and allergic reactions.

After the bath there are several creams which will bring comfort as well as repair the damage. Any lotions containing aloe or calendula (the purer the better) are sure to help with the pain. The best ones are usually found at health food stores. To reduce swelling, utilize a 1 percent, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or a vitamin E cream. Avoid using petroleum jelly or any greasy ointments as they have a tendency to trap heat.

Taking the recommended dosage of ibuprofen will not only relieve some of the pain, it will also help with swelling. Taking extra vitamin C will help speed the healing process.

One last tip for the sunburned, wear your pajamas inside-out to avoid irritation from the seams when sleeping.

It is not only important to perform regular self-checks for abnormal moles and freckles, it is crucial to see a doctor at least once a year so he or she can do the same. In the meantime, practice the aforementioned tips. It is believed that roughly 80 percent of skin change associated with aging is actually due to sun exposure. For more information, visit or

License AK# 157293 Washington Consumer Loan Company license# CL-157293 California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, License# 4131067

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