The Effects of Sun Exposure Aren’t So Sunny

For many people, the season of summer is synonymous with pool time and tanning. And I know you have all the lectures on how tanning isn’t good for you and how it can cause premature aging and certain types of skin cancer. This post then, is meant to give you all a little perspective on what actually happens to your body when you tan and what type of sunrays you are exposing yourself to. So read on, enjoy your fun in the sun, and please, please, please apply your sunscreen.

So how did the whole tanning trend begin? Having a tan was actually first made fashionable in the 1920’s by fashion icon Coco Chanel after she returned from a vacation to the French Riviera with a tan. Fashion headlines around the world carried the story about her new skin tone and by the following summer, tans were a symbol of leisure and social status. They have been marketed as fashionable ever since.(Key word being marketed)

Sun tans are nothing more than a physical symptom of damaged skin. Everyone has cells called melanocytes, which are the cells that form the top layers of your skin. A tan is the result of ultraviolet radiation stimulating those melanocytes to produce more melanin or pigment. The cell’s production of melanin is a natural defense against the sun and physically manifests into your darker pigment or tan.

Most sun damage to our skin is caused by two types of sunrays:  UVB and UVA. UVB is the type of ray that causes your skin to burn. UVA on the other hand, does not have any tangible physical symptoms. This causes most people to believe it is the “safer” UV ray. Although UVA does not burn skin, it penetrates the skin more deeply, compromising the immune system – our natural defense to cancer – and impacts many skin cell types and structures. WARNING: Do not be fooled by tanning salons claiming that UVA is safer than UVB!

Sun damage can happen from direct and indirect exposure to UV rays. Direct exposure occurs when rays from the sun or tanning bed pass in a direct line to hit the skin. Indirect exposure occurs when the rays bounce from a surface, such as water, sand, or concrete pools. For example, when you hanging out in the pool, UV rays reflect off the water and bounce up to your face and shoulders. Indirect exposure is sometimes considered more dangerous than direct exposure because it causes the same damage as direct exposure but people do not think to protect themselves from it.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF is a scale used to measure the coverage of your sunscreen in terms of the protection it offers against UVB rays. For example, SPF 15 protects you against 14 out of 15 parts of UVB. An SPF 30 protects you against 29 out of 30 parts of UVB.

The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using no less than an SPF 15 sunscreen. Select a broad spectrum sunscreen, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied every two hours in order to keep working.

(All information compiled from Sun Protection.)

CRi Till You Die!

-Michelle

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