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Summertime is here again, and some of us have spent too many hours baking in the sun. We had no idea that the beautiful golden tan we got at 16 would mean sun spots at 40.

With wonderful summer comes more intense UV rays and longer days for exposure. We have approximately 161 days of gloomy skies in the High Country, so we welcome the predicted 204 days of sunshine. That magnificent and wonderful Mr. Sun who woos us with his warmth and makes us feel so vibrantly alive can wreak havoc on us if we underestimate his fierce power. We have to remain mindful that among other things, he has a great impact on how our skin ages.

It remains puzzling to me when I have a client who has spent tons of money on face work — from botox, fillers, fat infusion to facelifts or whatever the next new “in” thing is — and when I ask if they are using some sort of sun protection on a daily basis, the answer is usually “well, when I’m in the sun.” I always probe further to find out what “in the sun” means to them. To most it means when I’m gardening, playing golf, at the beach, etc. If you go out of your house, drive your car, go shopping, you are in the sun unless it is nighttime; hence you do need to be protecting that precious skin that you’re trying to keep as youthful as possible.

I have put together some facts that I want you to consider when you think about the wonderful skin you live in. The most exclusive, expensive wrinkle cream cannot compare to the lowly oft-neglected sunscreen in fighting wrinkles and other lurking things. Beyond our sometimes obsession with looking good, skin cancer is a major riveting reason to protect ourselves from the laser blast of UVA and UVB rays Mr. Sun aims at us daily. I know you’ve heard it before, but if you have yet to heed it, listen up!

FACT: 3.3 million Americans have some type of skin cancer; 76,380 have melanoma, the deadly type. Someone dies every 52 minutes from melanoma. Guys, this is sooo preventable. Now a quick word about tanning beds — DON’T!

Know your enemy: UVA rays, called aging rays, contribute to 90 percent of skin aging. These penetrate through the epidermis (top dead layer) into the dermis (live layer) which contains connective tissue, blood, lymph vessels, collagen, elastin. All the stuff that helps our skin be healthy is located here. You can slather on all the creams, serum and potions you like, but without protection from the sun, you give a free access pass to everything that can make you look old, wrinkle and can kill you to boot. Some of the results of sun damage are dark patches, wrinkles, loose skin, premature aging, DNA damage. Oh yes, these rays go right through glass.

UVB rays, called burning rays, these are the rays that cause that tan you so desperately want. These rays affect the melanocytes, which produce melanin. Melanin is designed to help protect the skin from UV but can be altered or destroyed by large frequent doses that are allowed to penetrate the skin. So the irony of this is that this assault on the skin causes the melanin (that tan stuff) to rise to the surface as it fights to protect the skin from the self-inflicted damage. This damage builds and speeds up aging and increases your risk for skin cancer. UVB does not penetrate as deep, but equally damages the skin and can damage eyes as well. On a high note, UVB contributes to the body’s synthesis of Vitamin D and other important minerals.

Equip yourself: Who needs sunscreen? Everybody. Keep babies under 6 months OUT of direct sun.

When should I wear it? 365 days a year. Reapply every two hours, especially when swimming. Liberally apply; one ounce should cover the face, hands, arms, legs, feet and any exposed skin.

What kind? Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, one that addresses UVA and UVB, with a minimum SPF of 30. There are a gazillion on the market, including creams, lotions, gels, waxes and sprays. Check the expiration date (sunscreen has a shelf life of two to three years).

More Tips: Use other preventatives along with sunscreen, including hats, sunglasses and clothing to cover. Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Stay beautiful and healthy!

Marion Edwards is a Licensed Esthetician, Professional Makeup Artist and Certified Trainer for Motives Cosmetics. She can be contacted at 828.773.1500.

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