Sun-filled days are invitations to enjoy the outdoors. However, these invitations should come with a disclosure about what to expect when you expose your skin to the sun. Although not all sun exposure is harmful, the majority of what we know about the effects of sun on your skin is damaging. Since we all have different skin types and different levels of sensitivity to the sun, nature’s invite should also include a warning about the ray’s negative effects based on your skin color, hereditary background and the amount of time your skin is exposed. These factors all play roles in the level of damage that could occur with sun-kissed skin.
Damaging Effects of Exposure to Sunlight
The sun produces ultraviolet light which can alter and damage the chemical makeup of your skin. The coloring of your skin may burn or darken after exposure to the sun. This is actually your skin’s way of protecting itself from further sun damage. Your skin produces a chemical called melanin which protects the tissue levels of your skin from getting damaged by ultraviolet light. Melanin is what makes your skin appear to be darker. Too much melanin production can cause skin cell damage. A tan body may look nice and healthy, but the additional negative effects that come with sun exposure are not attractive at all. Wrinkles, uneven skin tone, fine lines and prematurely aged skin are all brought on by over-exposure to ultraviolet light.
The sun’s damaging effects not only cause surface-level abnormalities, but internal issues as well. With overexposure to ultraviolet light comes an over-production of melanin, which breaks down your body’s natural defenses against harmful invaders like infections and cancer. Once we let these invaders inside, our immune systems become weak and less effective. This vicious cycle repeats itself since a weak immune system weakens your skin’s ability to protect against the invaders.
The most damaging effect from the sun is skin cancer. Skin cancer can be deadly and comes in many different forms. If you have been exposed to the sun and you notice a change in the appearance of your skin, or find a mole or red spot, it is important to consult with a dermatologist to determine if you have severe skin damage. If skin cancer is found early enough, it can usually be removed.
Save Your Skin
Let’s face it, there’s just no way you’re avoiding the sun this summer. When you do venture out into the sun, it is always recommended to wear protection. Sunscreens have sun protection factors that aid in protecting your skin from ultraviolet light, and should be your first line of defense. In addition to wearing protective clothing, such as hats and longer sleeved shirts, lathering up with sunscreen can increase your chances of avoiding the wrinkles and a sun burn.
If you plan on spending an extended period of time in the sun, make sure to wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen to protect yourself. There are many different types of sunscreens with different levels of sun protection. You can even make your own homemade sunscreen using safe, natural ingredients found at your local grocery store. Remember, applying any type of sunscreen will save your skin and possibly your life.
It’s Not All Bad
While the sun can have negative effects, some effects of sun exposure on your skin are actually quite positive. What should be understood is that sun exposure needs to be in moderation in order for the positive effects to override the negative.
Moderate sun exposure can relax your mood and relieve stress and depression. Sunlight is part of recommended treatment for skin diseases like acne, eczema and psoriasis. It can even help treat people with multiple sclerosis. Most importantly, sun exposure helps produce Vitamin D, which can help reduce the risk of skin cancer, can help prevent tuberculosis and is vital to bone health. In studies, Vitamin D has been show to help combat a number of cancers, including breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers.
Be Sun Smart
With a little knowledge of what could happen with sun exposure and an understanding of your own skin type, you can still have fun in the sun. Always wear protection and avoid being in direct sunlight for too long. Your skin could show signs that it enjoys a little kiss of sunlight from time to time. Next time nature calls and wants to have a play date outdoors, you and your skin will be ready.
This is a guest post by Jessie Vyvyan who is a freelance writer for Dr. R. Lee Steely, a Houston cosmetic surgeon specializing in facial rejuvenation and non-surgical skin care.