Written by: Anne Marie Forgarty, RGN
What are the Effects of Sun on the Skin?
Skin cancer is a very common cancer in the UK and excessive sun exposure can cause it. Going out in the open is a great way to stay active, remain healthy and get vitamin D, but you must do it while protecting your skin from harmful sun radiations. The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can destroy skin cells. Many cases of skin cancer are caused by skin damage from sun exposure. That’s why protection from UV rays is so important, not only in summer but in any season, as they can even come through on cloudy and cool days. If UV strength is three or more according to your area’s UV index, you’ll need to protect your skin from too much sun exposure. It is so important to stay safe in summer.
What are the effects of sun rays on your skin?
Sun exposure is somewhat necessary and beneficial for our skin, as it helps our bodies to produce Vitamin C. But there’s a downside, as UV rays present in sunlight can cause significant damage to our skin, which can cause skin cancer and many other conditions. Our skin contains melanin, which prevents it from ultraviolet exposure, however, this can be burnt down by excessive exposure, reducing skin elasticity, and causing early ageing.
People tan as the sunlight makes the skin produce more melanin and darken. This tan then fades when new cells come to the skin’s surface and the tan cells are sloughed off. So, adequate sunlight is good, as long as you have proper protection from harmful UV rays. These UV rays penetrate the outer layers of our skin and either damage or kill the skin cells. Check your skin often for suspicious growths or any other noticeable skin changes. Keep your skin well protected by covering sensitive areas, wearing sunblock, limiting total exposure time, and avoiding the sun between the hottest hours, as recommended by weather experts.
A few examples of sun exposure issues to your skin over time include destroying elastin and collagen fibres, pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratosis), cancerous skin lesions, lines, sagging, dark spots, and wrinkles. This can also cause leathery-looking skin, freckles, and yellowing of the skin.
Protecting your skin from UV Rays
The sun’s UV rays and their effects on our skin make it a necessity to protect our skin from the sun; this can be achieved in various ways, which we have discussed below.
Shade: This is the best protective method. You can reduce sun damage and skin cancer by staying in the shade, under a tree, or in any other shelter. Additionally, when going outside, take an umbrella along and use sunscreen.
Protective Clothing: It is better to wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and skirts, which can help protect against UV rays. If wearing such clothes is not practical, consider wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric and those having darker colours offer more protection. You can also get some UV protection certified clothes!
Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes and the skin around them from UV rays, reducing the risk of cataracts. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection; wrap-around glasses are also very effective in blocking UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Hat: Wear a hat with a brim all the way around to protect your face, ears, and neck. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through, and opt for tightly woven fabrics such as canvas as they offer more UV protection. If you go for a baseball cap, protect your ears and neck with a scarf or clothing to cover these areas.
Sunscreen: Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher. Also, remember that sunscreen works best when combined with other options. Children who are six months old or younger, according to FDA, are best to be kept in the shade. When choosing a sunscreen, consider its sun protection factor (SPF), which is a number that rates how well they block UV rays. Also, keep in mind that sunscreen wears off, so reapply often if you are outside for an extended period of time.
We all like the sun and want to get out as soon as summer arrives. The sun can be very good for our mood and well-being; by remembering to always use sunscreen and be sun wise, we can reduce our risk of getting skin cancer. Sun exposure also ages healthy skin and can lead to several skin conditions, so take care while enjoying the sun.