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Pass the sunscreen please
Published in Daily News Egypt on 27 - 07 - 2007

On the coast this summer, the newest accessory seems to be sun block. From SPF 15 to 100, no one hits the beach without it. The oily shimmering skins that once dominated the Egyptian seaside are almost nonexistent. So what triggered all these people to ditch their fancy sun tanning oils and replace them with the healthier protective creams?
Last week the ministry of health issued a public service announcement warning citizens about direct exposure to the sun.
Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shaheen said that according to some images captured by Austrian satellites, the amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun would reach hazardous levels because it is at its peak over the Middle East, North Africa, South East Asia and Latin America.
This caused a genuine scare among the Egyptian population, and although the statement said the "hazardous level of UV will only last a day, general awareness of sun protection has risen.
To clarify, there are two types of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun that allow you to get a tan. First, there is Ultraviolet A (UVA), which is responsible for darkening the pigments in your skin, thus giving you a tan. The second is Ultraviolet B (UVB) which is the one that causes the skin to burn. It is much stronger than UVA, but luckily it is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer before reaching our bodies.
A common misconception is that the increase in UV rays is due to climate change, one of the most talked-about topics these days.
According to Hoda Baraka, associate at Sindicatum Carbon Capital specialized in global warming, says that although there is a "hike in temperatures across the board, UV rays are related more to the ozone layer but she believes that the ozone depletion problem has gotten better, not worse.
So the ozone layer is safe, but it doesn't mean your bodies are safe from the sun.
Unfortunately tanning is not the only symptom of these types of radiation. They are linked to malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and are also linked to immune system damage.
Malignant melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer that, if not treated early, can lead to death. The lighter your skin, the more likely you'll get it. It appears in the form of moles or as normal-looking skin. The early effect causes moles to disfigure and change color, from brown to purple. But if it is caught early, it is curable.
Although skin color may provide some protection against cancer, with darker being more protected, the immune systems in people with dark and light skin are all affected equally by the sun. The body has a defence immune system which includes white blood cells called T lymphocytes and specialized skin cells called Langerhans. When skin is exposed to sunlight, the body's natural chemistry can suppress these immune factors, making you more vulnerable to disease.
Even after knowing all the internal side effects of tanning, people still tend to ignore them and soak up the sun because ironically the bronze color it gives makes us look healthy; it hides all the little imperfections on our skin and makes us feel more attractive. But that s a temporary effect.
In the long run, sun radiation causes premature wrinkles. According to Dermatologist Mohsen Soliman, the elasticity of the collagen fibres in the face is damaged by the sun's radiation. Thus the facial skin wrinkles occur earlier than they would have naturally.
UV rays have a positive side too, They are absorbed by our skin and help in the formation of vitamin D which is extremely important to our bones, dermatologist Sara Adel told Daily News Egypt.
So is the sun block really helping? Luckily the answer is yes.
According to Soliman, the minimum sunscreen you should be using is SPF 15. You should reapply it regularly, every two to three hours, and apply it 20 minutes before you are exposed to the sun.
Most sunscreens work by containing either an organic chemical compound that absorbs ultraviolet light (such as oxybenzone) or an opaque material that reflects light (such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or a combination of both).
Another necessary precaution is to try avoiding the sun rays from 10 am-4 pm as much as possible as that is when it is most dangerous and damaging.
Of course these are also the most likely hours that the majority of people are at the seaside and it would be a shame to waste away the summer indoors. Instead of avoiding the beach altogether, just keep away from direct exposure and long hours under the sun.
Now that you know the full story, have a great healthy bronze summer.


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