Hold On to Summer With These Health Habits
By Sheryl Kraft
Saying goodbye to summer means a bittersweet end to long days, free-spirited living, sandals, straw hats and cookouts.
And many of us rail against summer's end. But before you ditch everything associated with summer, hang on to these two.
Because of the ever-changing angle of the sun with the seasons, the sun is strongest in the summer, as its rays hit at a steeper angle. Those strong ultraviolet rays wreak damage to your skin's health and appearance, raising the risk of things ranging from premature aging to skin cancer.
Although it's even more important to use sunscreen liberally and often in the summer (the equivalent of one shot glass about every two hours), it's also important to use sunscreen every time you'll be outside—every day of the year, even in the winter. That's because in the winter, the earth's ozone layer—which helps absorb harmful UV rays—is thinnest.
You still need sunscreen, even when the days get shorter, colder and darker. Even when you feel so cold when you go outside and swear that the sun is a million miles away. Even when it's cloudy out. You still need to protect all exposed areas, including your face, neck and hands.
Ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause damage long after you've packed away your bathing suit. The UVB rays of the sun, which are associated with burning because they penetrate and damage the outermost layers of your skin, can still reach you in the winter. The longer-wavelength UVA rays, though less intense than UVB, are associated with skin aging because they penetrate your skin more deeply, even passing through glass and cloud cover. Although UVA rays may not burn you, they can cause premature aging and skin cancer.
Although it feels colder outside, the sun is hitting the earth's surface and reflecting onto your skin, especially at high altitudes and reflective surfaces (like snow and ice). Keep up with your SPF habit of 30 or more, and make sure your sunscreen is labeled "broad-spectrum," meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
As with sunscreen, you need sunglasses year-round, even on cloudy and cold days.
Regardless of season, ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage your cornea, lens and other parts of your eye (including the skin on your eyelid), contributing to the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, corneal sunburns and eyelid cancers.
Exposure to sunlight accumulates over time. If you have light eyes, you're even more at risk, since having less eye pigment allows more sunlight to enter the lens of your eye (that's why light-eyed people are more sensitive to bright light).
When you're outdoors, keep in mind that snow and ice are particularly reflective. Always wear high-quality sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Polarized lenses are best for driving or fighting glare from things like snow, water or pavement, since they have special glare-blocking filters. Wrap-around glasses are especially helpful for people who are very sensitive to light or have had cataract surgery.
And just in case you're not in the habit of sunglasses in winter, keep a pair stashed in your car. You never know when the sun will become particularly glaring.