There’s a belief among many Florida teens that being tan is a necessity. Living in the Sunshine State, there’s just no excuse for sour cream skin, they say.But, with this notion comes a widely overlooked danger: sunburns.
Sunburns are a major health issue here on the Space Coast with our proximity to the beaches, and many teens fail to see the risks involved with sunburns. In fact, according to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, 60-80% of sun exposure in a person’s lifetime occurs before the age of 18. “The worst sunburn I probably had was when I was 12. I never put on sunscreen and I was peeling everywhere and in the worst pain,” says Chelsi Pankey, a senior at VHS. Considering that overexposure to the sun before the age of 18 is most damaging for your skin, it is of the utmost importance that we protect our skin from the dangers of sunburns.
What are the dangers? Along with what every Floridian has experienced at some point (redness of the skin, stinging pain, peeling skin, blistering, etc.), one blistering sunburn before the age of 18 more than doubles a person’s risk of developing melanoma later in life says skincancer.org. In addition, the same more than doubling the chances of developing melanoma applies if a person has had five or more sunburns at any point in their life. Melanoma most often develops from blistering sunburns, but other forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, develop from simple accumulation of sun exposure over the years.
Skin cancer can develop even if you’ve never had a severe sunburn. Unprotected exposure to the sun is sometimes all it takes. So, how do you protect yourself? “I stay safe from sunburns by wearing sunscreen and not staying out in the sun too long,” says VHS senior, Ryan Stepp, and he has the right idea. The American Academy of Dermatology’s ABC’s are a great way to prevent the damages of sun exposure.
Away: Try to avoid the sun during the middle of the day. The rays are most damaging between 10:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. Living in Florida, this can be a tough thing to do, especially with temptations of relaxing beach days. Have no fear though, the next step will be your aid for those sunny outdoor days.
Block: Block the sun’s rays with sunscreen. Always use one with an SPF of 15 or higher, and make sure to reapply during the day. Don’t wait until you’re actually in the sun to put it on. This should be done a half hour ahead. Sunscreen with an SPF over 15 is called sunblock because it offers significant protection from sunburn and prevents tanning. I recommend an SPF of 15 if you are looking to get a healthy glow. As long as you reapply, it will protect your skin from damage while also allowing for tanning.
Cover-up: Cover up with protective clothing. This can be anything from long sleeves to a hat, and the more the better. While this is not an ideal rule for beach days, it would be wise to follow during other outdoor activities. Clothing, especially clothes with a tight weave, help keep the sun’s rays from damaging skin.
Some people can develop a sunburn within just 15 minutes of exposure, so the ABC’s are a good rule of thumb whenever you’re going to be in the sun no matter how long it may be. With the knowledge and practice of the ABC’s, beautiful, healthy, sunburn-free skin is a sure thing.