The Effects of the Sun on Your Skin

After a long, cold winter, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of the warm sun on your skin.  However, before hitting the beach this summer, it’s important to understand the damaging effects UV rays can have on your skin and how to prevent them.   

There are two types of UV rays that reach the earth – UVA and UVB.  UVA rays are what cause your skin to tan, wrinkles and other signs of premature aging, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer.  Once the UV rays reach your skin, they interact with a chemical in the skin called melanin, which is your first line of protection against the sun’s harsh rays.  The chemical reaction that is caused is what gives your skin a tan.   On the other hand, you get sunburned when the melanin cannot handle the amount of UV rays your skin is being exposed to.   For most people, either sunburn or a tan are typical occurrences in the summer months.

So, what kind of long-term effects can the sun have on your skin?  Studies have shown that overexposure to the sun can cause fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, freckles as well as tough leathery skin.  The sun is so powerful, it can actually breakdown the collagen in your skin.  Sunlight damages collagen fibers and causes the accumulation of abnormal elastin.  When this elastin accumulates, enzymes called metalloproteinases are produced, which typically help to reform collagen.  However, when this process does not function correctly, some of the metalloproteinases actually break down collagen.   When the skin repeats this process time and time again, wrinkles develop. 

And, as if that isn’t enough, the sun can also cause numerous types of skin cancer, including melanoma, eye damage such as cataracts and a weakened immune system.  

Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can be taken to limit your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

        ▪       Use sunscreen.  This should be an everyday habit.  Generously apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.  Make sure you choose a product that provide what’s called “broad spectrum” protection against both UVA and UVB rays. When you’re at the beach or anywhere else you expect to be exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time, reapply every two hours.

        ▪       Weak protective clothing.  Whenever possible, wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses to help shield your skin from the sun.  Look for clothing that is made with fabrics that have built in SPF. 

        ▪       Avoid peak sun hours.  10am-4pm are when the sun’s rays are the most intense, so be sure to set up umbrella or find a shady place to go during these times. 

        ▪       Don't use tanning beds.  Tanning beds are just as harmful for you as the actual sun’s UV rays.  So, do your skin a favor, and avoid indoor tanning.

Despite all of the harm that can be caused to your skin by the sun, we have to remember that our body gets a lot of benefits from sunlight.  UV radiation promotes the synthesis of Vitamin D in the skin, which is essential to balance the distribution of calcium through the body and bone health. 

Like all things in life, just be sure to enjoy the sun in moderation and follow the preventative measure to avoid long-term damaging effects on your skin and body. 

Looking for a sun-kissed glow?  Try using a face and all-over body bronzer!