July is UV Safety Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to talk about how being in the sun can affect your veins.
The light we get from the sun is a mix of many colors. One of the colors that we can’t see is called ultraviolet, or “UV”. There are two types of UV light, which we just call UV-A and UV-B. UV-A is the weaker type, but it goes through our skin, affecting our skin’s DNA, cell membranes, elasticity, and the blood vessels just under the skin. UV rays decrease collagen, which is what gives both our skin and veins elasticity. The damaged vessels get weaker and expand, leading to spider veins.
One of the most common places this happens is around the nose, but it can happen anywhere on your skin. You can recognize spider veins by their red-purple color, and their small, web-like shape. They might become more noticeable and uncomfortable during the summer, when heat makes your veins expand.
The worst time for UV exposure is from about 10AM to 2PM, especially during the summer. It’s best to stay indoors or to cover your skin, but that can be hard in the summer. UV rays can sneak up on us when we think we’re safe, because it’s a type of light that we just can’t see. For example, you get more exposure if you’re at the beach, because the UV rays reflect off the surface of the water and sand. And it’s not just sunny days you have to worry about either, since UV light goes right through the clouds even when it’s overcast.
What can you do to protect your vein health? Thankfully you can protect your veins the same way you protect your skin. A hat is a good start to shade yourself from the sun, and don’t forget sunglasses that protect from UV light. Sun-protective clothing can help, and if you want to stay cool, try baggy pants, dresses, or long skirts. Make sure to apply a good amount of sunscreen with at least SPF50, wherever your skin is exposed. Although they won’t protect you from UV rays, the usual vein health advice still applies: moderate exercise, a balanced diet, lifting your legs when you can, and wearing compression garments.
If you’re concerned about your vein health, follow the tips above, and contact us if you need a consult.
Kennedy, Cornelis, et al. “Effect of Smoking and Sun on the Aging Skin.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 120, no. 4, 1 Apr. 2003, pp. 548–554., https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.12092.x.