Sunburn and Tanning Overview
It’s summer! Time to enjoy the sun—uh, NOT!
While sun has beneficial effects to your health and well-being, very minimal exposure is required. More than enough sun exposure causes sunburn and tanning. For a while, these two skin reactions have been hailed as beauty marks that are particularly cool and fash during the summer months. Recently, every known beauty guru has debunked this idea.
The sun gives off energy in the form of heat and light waves that contain radiation. When this radiation, in the form of ultraviolet rays, of particular interest are UVA and UVB rays, comes into contact with the skin, they cause oxidative stress. When this process occurs, free radicals find their way into the skin, and overwhelm and damage otherwise healthy skin cells and DNA.
When the melanin on the outer layer of the skin, or epidermis, darkens, it signals that the damage has been done. In turn, this, darkening and burning of the epidermis stimulates melanocytes to produce more melanin in an attempt to salvage the skin from sun damage. Melanocytes are special skin cells responsible for producing melanin.
As new melanin is produced and lifted up in the epidermis, skin becomes thicker, which with subsequent sun exposure, thickens the dead skin on the epidermis. This is your skin’s way of adding a layer of protection for your skin against the sun’s intense heat and radiation. The result is not just a sunburned or sun tanned skin but, older, drier, rougher skin.
When skin is sunburned skin darkening happens very fast. When skin is sunburned, the body’s immune system is switched on and sends more blood into the sunburned area in an attempt to protect sun exposed skin from damage. The increased blood flow causes more heat to be released from the affected area and for stinging and burning sensation to occur. When white blood cells rush to the sunburned skin, it peels off sunburned skin, causing a feeling of itchiness.
How the sun damages your skin?
The sun causes skin damage in two ways, correspondingly with two type of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that comes with its intense heat and light: UVB, which damages the outer layer of the skin, and UVA, which is characterized as deep penetrating light waves and is thus capable of damaging both the outer and the deeper layers of the skin. UVA and UVB are considered as radiation, which means that they can alter the skin cells and the DNA. UVA, in particular damages collagen, skin’s natural fibers that are responsible for keeping skin well-nourished and rejuvenated. UVA is also the primary cause of melanoma, the worst kind of skin cancer.
Tips on choosing the best sunscreen
Many sunscreens available in the market these days can effectively block out UVB radiation from the sun, but do not offer sufficient protection against UVA. You know you need to be protected from both types of radiation, and there’s one group of sunscreens that can help you do that-the broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects skin from both UVA and UVB.
Here are some practical tips to make the money you spend on sunscreens, and the effort you make of religiously applying sunscreen daily worthwhile:
1. Look for an SPF of at least 30. SPF or sun protection factor is only a measure of the strength of UVB protection the sunscreen product provides. It is the ratio of time it takes for sunburn to form with sunscreen as against the time it takes for skin to develop sunburn without sunscreen. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above, most skin specialists would recommend you double up to at least an SPF 30.
2. Look for a broad spectrum sunscreen. Make sure your sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The most recent UVA blocking ingredients are ecamsule (marketed as Mexoryl SX), and avobendazone (such as Neutrogena’s Helioplex).
3. Choose waterproof sunscreen. Even when the label reads so and even if your sunscreen claims to provide all-day protection, re-apply throughout the day most especially after several hours from last application, wetting, and sweating. Water resistant sunscreens are just much harder to wear off so protection stays longer.
How Sunscreen Helps Protect Your Skin?
The most effective sunscreens are often made of a combination of inorganic and organic ingredients which prevent sunburn and sun tanning from occurring. Inorganic ingredients deflect light, acting like a physical barrier between the sun and your skin. Organic ingredients, on the other hand, absorb UVA and UVB radiation which breaks down the components of the sunblock and causes heat to be released.
Do You Need Sunscreen On a Cloudy Day?
Apply sunscreen even on gloomy or rainy days. Heck, you need sun protection even when it’s winter!
The evidence is clear and conclusive: sunburn and sun tan are signs of skin damage. For the sake of your skin and your health, limit your sun exposure. Make sure you’re protected whenever you need to brave the daylight!