Part 7 The Sun and Your Skin (14 Parts)

Sunlight that passes through earth is composed of visible light and ultraviolet light (UV). UVA and UVB Light are one of the most common ultraviolet lights. UV lights falls outside the visible light spectrum, meaning, the human eye cannot see this type of light and can only be seen using a sophisticated tool which detects different light wavelength across the light spectrum.

The difference between the two UV light lies in their ability to damage skin cells. UVB light doesn’t get through the deeper layer of the skin and accounts for visible burns and DNA damage across the top layer of the skin.

UVA light, on the other hand, penetrates through the deeper layer of the skin and activates free radicals (very reactive substances), which cause small damages to the skin. Cumulative damage accounts for the skin’s premature aging.

SPFs, Lifestyle and Diet

There are misconceptions about skin color. People believe that the fairer you are, the more you are likely to suffer burns caused by exposure to sunlight. That may be partly true, but overexposure to UV light can cause serious skin problems.

If you go outdoors and cannot avoid exposing yourself to the harmful sunrays, the following recommendations will surely save you from the aftermath of excessive sun exposure:

  • Wear protective sunscreen – More and more people are starting to realize the importance of wearing lotions with Sun Protection Factor ingredients (SPF). SPFs sunscreen lotions are effective in blocking UV lights from penetrating through your skin. Intensive application should be made on exposed spots of the body such as the lower arm and legs, ear lobes, nose, feet and the face. Choose sunscreens that contain a high amount of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, benzophenone, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone and/or butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane known as avobenzone (Parsol 1979).
  • Wear Protective Fabric - Tightly woven clothing are effective in warding off unwanted UV rays. Today, some fabrics are labeled as how effective they are in intercepting UV rays. Hats with wide brim also confer a great amount of protection.
  • Minimize Unnecessary Exposure and Tanning – Unavoidable sun exposure such as recreation or as part of occupation is one of the hazards of everyday life and increases your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
If these cannot be avoided, make sure to wear protective clothing and wear sunscreens appropriate for a certain activity and your level of exposure. Increasing SPFs means increasing protection. Cosmetic tanning also poses the same kind of risk due to UV-induced damage. It uses UVA rays and does not cause obvious burns. The amount of damage is comparable to UVB rays which cause visible tanning and damage.
  • Eat Right – Maintaining a well-balanced diet is critical to the maintenance of a healthy skin. Your grandma may have said it once to you but fruits and vegetables contain excellent skin rejuvenating ingredients. Fruits and Vegetables contain anti-oxidants such as vitamins C, D and E. These organic foodstuffs bind with highly reactive free radicals and neutralize them. They insulate the body against unwanted damage caused by these extremely injurious chemicals.
Whole grains, seeds, nuts, fish such as tuna and salmons are excellent sources of fatty acids and essential oils and keeps the skin hydrated. Fatty acids acts like a bullet vest in preventing UV rays from penetrating deeply into the skin causing too much damage.

Fluids such as water and juices also keep your skin dehydrated and minimize the effect of sun exposure. Research shows that dehydrated skin are more prone from burns and structural damage.

Protecting the Skin from the Sun

Yes, enjoying a sunny day on the beach is fun. However, when going out without proper skin protection one is risking himself of having skin diseases, one of which is the dreaded skin cancer. So to maintain the healthy, youthful glow of one's skin, it is indispensable to understand how the bad effects of the sun's ultraviolet or UV rays come into action.

The UV-A and UV-B rays penetrate clouds, thick layers of glass, a meter of water, and the layers of the skin. UV-B makes the skin's top layers to release chemicals that permit the blood vessels' expansion and cause some fluid to leak, resulting to inflammation, pain and redness known as sunburn. This damage can occur within an approximate of only 15 minutes and can continue to worsen for up to 72 hours after sun exposure. The damaged skin cells in the process will die and "molt off" in sheets or pictures. Peeling is the process in which the body disposes of dead skin cells. UV-A are the rays that get into the deeper layers of the skin. This affects the living skin cells under the surface of the skin. These rays not only bring about long-term damage such as sagging, wrinkles and discoloration, they also give way for the early stages of skin cancer.

Here's some "geek speak" that's worth some brow-burning. The UV rays act like chain saws, shredding deep into the DNA (the genetic material, with a very precise structure, specific order and specific coding) found within the cell nuclei. Repair enzymes within the cell act by countering the damage done on the DNA chain in shortest period possible. This damage and repair happens simultaneously and continuously with the tempo of the repair keeping up with the extent of damage being inflicted. But just like any other mechanism within the body, these repair enzymes have their limits and reaches the point that they can no longer work. When the damage is too much (which occurs even before the skin turns red), the enzymes cannot cope. The result is a dismantled DNA structure which alters the coding and leads to the abnormality of skin cells or what is termed as mutation. This is the first step of the formation of cancer cells. UV-rays also contribute to the formation of superoxides which are extremely toxic chemicals the speeds up skin cell ageing.

So who exactly are those in the threat of having skin cancer? People who have already experienced three or more bad cases of sunburn before reaching the age of twenty and regular sunbathers who always crave for an instant tan have greater risks of acquiring the dreaded skin disease known as melanoma. Cricketers, farmers, golf players and others, who have long exposure to the sun, have more tendencies to have milder forms of skin cancer.

So after learning how the body reacts to sunlight here is some information on how to prevent its harmful effect.
Ironically, studies on skin care show that Vitamin D, with the help of sunlight exposure, is what can help the body combat skin cancer.
So how does one go out in the open without the paranoia of cancer haunting him? Dermatologists suggest the use of sunscreens.
Researches showed that exposure to sunlight sans sunscreen should be less than 10 to 15 minutes at noon, while the sun is at its strongest. Using a sunscreen with an SPF or sun protection of 15 or higher is recommended. People with sensitive skin and the older adults should use an SPF of 30 or stronger because their skin tends to burn more easily. People with allergies or sensitive skin should also take note of the ingredients and choose those that are free of chemicals, dyes, preservatives, and alcohol.

If sun exposure will be particularly high, using a stronger sunscreen like zinc or titanium oxide is the better option, as it will completely stop sunlight from reaching the skin. Sunscreen application should be about half an hour before getting exposed into the sun and reapplication should be done every few hours. And when going swimming, one should know that 98 percent of the sun's rays can pass through water, so without some kind of "water-resistant" sun screen and frequent applications, sunburn might be inevitable.

The skin is meant to protect and shield one from the threats of the environment so unless one properly cares for it, it won't do its job that well.

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