How the Sun Affects Your Skin
After a long, cold winter, who doesn’t want to get out and get into the sunshine? The sun can have a rejuvenating effect on us, not only warming us but filling us with optimism and a feeling of general well-being. The sun also provides us with Vitamin D, which is essential for bone health (it aids in the absorption of calcium), keeps your vision stronger, and can help prevent charley horses or muscle spasms. However, like most things, while a little bit of sunlight is good, even beneficial, too much can cause harm, especially to your skin.
A Quick Look at Your Skin
Even if you think that your skin is just a layer covering your body, it is actually a complex organ that is made up of three layers:
- The epidermis is the top layer and is responsible for the color of your skin. It also makes new skin cells at the bottom of the layer while old cells are being shed at the top.
- The dermis contains nerve endings which give you your sense of touch. It also makes sweat and oil. Hair grows out of the dermis.
- The subcutaneous fat layer binds the top two layers to your muscles. It helps bring blood to the dermis and provides your body with some insulation, too.
Now that you understand a bit how your skin is put together, it’s time to look at how the sun can affect these layers.
The Sun and Your Skin
The sun is responsible for all of our light and most of our heat; the sun is the reason why the Earth is a living planet, rather than simply a ball of rock flying through space. Although the sun is 93 million miles from us, it only takes a bit over 8 minutes for its light to reach us. Sunlight reaches earth not only as radio waves, which do not affect us, but as UV, ultraviolet, light, and these waves from the sun can cause us harm.
- Sunburn is the most obvious example of damage to the skin. With the exception of albinos, everyone’s skin contains melanin, which gives it its color. The less melanin, the more chance of sunburn. When sunburn occurs, the damaged cells are looked upon as being likely to cause cancer, so they are ‘killed off’, and shed. If you’ve had a sunburn, you will be aware of the shedding of the epidermis as the skin below heals.
- Too much sun can also cause a condition called elastosis, which means that the collagen and elastic tissues that make up your skin are damaged or destroyed. When these tissues are damaged, the skin is much more likely to sag, accentuating the effects of aging.
- If you are ordinarily prone to freckles, and are not fond of them, exposure to the sun can bring out more of them. It can also cause other discoloration and mottling of your skin.
- Wrinkles are another byproduct of exposure to the sun, and it has now been discovered that something like 80 percent of our skin’s aging is due to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Damage to all layers, as well as the accompanying dehydration of the skin while sunbathing can make you look years older than your actual age.
- The sun was once thought to be a way to cure acne, but as it turns out, this was only an old wife’s tale. Because the sun’s rays dry the skin, the body will try to compensate for this by producing more oil than usual, increasing the chances of clogged, infected pores occurring. The only real way that the sun ‘helps’ acne is by making the skin around the pimples darker so they don’t show up quite as much. If you have found that your acne has been exacerbated by sunbathing, read more here about what help is available.
- And, of course, the worst that the sun can do to your skin is to cause skin cancer. Not too surprising, the chance of developing skin cancer is highest among people who have pale skin as they have less melanin in their epidermis to protect them.
Keeping Your Skin Safe and Lovely
The sun doesn’t have to be your enemy, and it is possible to enjoy the outdoors without suffering from the negative effects of sunlight.
- Use a good sunscreen, not only on your face, but on all exposed parts of your body.
- Wear a hat, one with a wide brim not only protects your face, but also looks very good.
- Clothing that covers your arms and legs keeps your skin safer.
- Try to confine your outdoor activities to early morning and late afternoon.
If you do find yourself suffering from sunburn or simply accumulative sun effects, you can also help to mitigate them by using a good moisturizer to help nourish and replenish the skin.