The Sun and Skin
Posted on 9th April 2020 at 16:23
The effects of the sun...
Although we may be confined to our homes and gardens at the moment, we still need to get some sun and as the days get longer and months get warmer, it is very tempting to sit out in the sun for long periods of time. Sunlight is essential to our health and wellbeing. It helps our body to synthesise Vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin for calcium homeostasis and cellular health and it can also help us feel better, stimulating our feel good hormones in our brains.
However, too much sun can be an irritant to the skin causing collagen and elastin fibres to weaken and break. It is a well known fact that UVA and UVB are detrimental to skin health and contribute to the cause of premature aging and aging.
The sun produces radiation which is all around us during the day; this is collectively called Ultra Violet Radiation or UVR. The two UVR rays that concern us, as skin therapists, are UVA and UVB, these are the ones that are known to cause aging and skin cancers.
UVA are the rays that penetrate the dermis and cause changes to the collagen and elastin fibres whilst UVB is a shorter wavelength and will affect the epidermis, prompting melanin production and tanning but can also cause changes to the skin cells and thus the potential to cause skin cancer.
Exposure to excessive sunlight is a contributing factor to ageing of the skin. This involves the development of elastosis, which is characterised by dry, leathery skin, deep wrinkling, and loss of elasticity causing the skin to become lose. Changes take place in the DNA and protein strands of the cell, which develop across linkages and thus lose their elasticity, very much like an elastic band that has become weathered and fragile, the same happens to the skin, unfortunately there is no way of restoring such skin back to normal once it has reached this stage.
There are many different creams and lotions available with varying degrees of efficiency in screening the skin from the sun. They are identified by a number which is known as a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and the higher the factor, the longer you are able to stay out in the sun.
There are two types of filters used, Physical and Chemical. So which is which and which one is better?
Physical sun blocks sit on the skin and block the UV rays by deflecting them back. They are sometimes called sun blocks. Physical sunscreens use mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and are sometimes called mineral sunscreens because of the mineral ingredients. However they don’t suit everybody as some people are allergic to titanium dioxide.
Chemical sunscreens are sometimes called organic sunscreens and contain chemical compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone and octisalate. The chemical compounds in the sunscreen change the UV rays into heat which is then released from the skin and scattered. Again some people may not suit these particular types of sunscreens as they may be allergic to the chemical compounds.
It is not recommended that you mix physical and chemical sunscreens together as the chemical structure of either product will be compromised and therefore it will be less effective. Neither is it recommended that you mix a sunscreen into your regular moisturiser as this can also compromise the efficiency of the sunscreen and can make it less effective.
Other ways that you can protect yourself in the sun:
• Avoid direct sunlight whenever possible
• Avoid sitting in the sun between the hours of 11 - 4pm
• Wear adequate covering in the sun
• Use a sunscreen regularly
• Wear a wide brimmed hat
• Wear UV protection sunglasses
• Limit your exposure in the sunlight
• Best time to sit in the sun is before 10am when the UV rays are at their weakest
• No more than 20 minutes in direct sunlight without protection
• Always carry an SPF with you – even in the car
There is no suntan without injury and if you desire to get a tan then do it safely.
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