Working on your tan during the summer season may seem like a good idea but are you aware of the harmful effects of direct sun exposure? A lot of people fail to protect skin from the sun especially when the weather doesn’t seem that sunny but the sun’s rays can actually penetrate the clouds even if we are not aware of it.
Sun Exposure – A Good or Bad Thing?
A little sun never hurt anyone and is in fact necessary for good health. Vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure and is considered to be essential for proper bone development. Vitamin D also increases absorption of calcium in the intestines and is responsible for regulating calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. Vitamin D also plays a role in cell growth, control of inflammation, and immune function.
The skin is considered to be the body’s first line of defense and it is also the part of the body exposed to the environment. Sun exposure can take its toll on the skin pretty quickly and can lead to different forms of skin damage including cancer. One of the most common effects of sun exposure is premature aging. The sun’s UV rays tend to penetrate the skin and damage collagen. Collagen is a protein responsible for keeping the skin firm and smooth and damage to this protein can lead to wrinkle formation. Aside from premature aging, sun exposure can also cause the appearance of sun spots and freckles on the face and other areas exposed to the sun. Overexposure to the sun with or without protection can also lead to sunburn which can increase an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer.
Effects of UVA and UVB Rays on the Skin:
UVA rays from the sun are the longest rays and can penetrate windows, clothing, and hats. Repeated exposure to UVA even in small amounts can cause photo aging and cause damage up to the dermis layer of the skin. Damage to the dermis causes collagen and elastin to shrink which causes wrinkles to appear on the top layer of the skin. UVA rays can also cause white or brown spots to appear on the skin which happens when melanocyte cells in the dermis either die or become overactive. Melanocytes are responsible for producing the skin-darkening pigment melanin.
The UVB ray is also known as the “tanning ray”. It is strongest during the summer which is why it is easy to get a tan during these months. UVB rays tend to penetrate the epidermis only, the uppermost layer of the skin. UVB rays cause melanocyte cells to increase melanin production leading to the formation of freckles or age spots. It also causes skin to become tough and leathery in texture.
Proper Protection with Sun Screen:
Using a sun block lotion may seem enough to keep the harmful effects of sun exposure at bay but this isn’t necessarily true. It still depends on what kind of protection the sunscreen lotion offers as well as the SPF. The best sun screen should be able to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays, specifically UVA and UVB and have a high sun protection factor (SPF).
Sun block or sun screen is a topical product that works by absorbing or reflecting some of the UV radiation from the sun. Sun screens that reflect light are known as physical sun screens while those that absorb UV light are also known as chemical sun screens. The use of sun block lotion is recommended by the American Cancer Society to prevent different types of skin carcinoma and it is important to choose a broad-spectrum sun screen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB.
The SPF of sun block is also important. Sun protection factor is a measure of the effectiveness of sun block in terms of sunburn. The higher the SPF of sun screen, the better protection it gives against UVB. The stated SPF of a sun screen product refers to the amount of UV radiation it would take to cause sunburn when the sun screen is applied.