Now that spring has sprung and the weather is starting to brighten up, we thought it would be a good time to talk about sun exposure, and the effect it has on our skin.
The good news is that it’s not all bad! There are many benefits of sensible exposure to natural sunlight. It’s known to boost the brain’s serotonin levels, helping to lift your mood and make you feel calm and focused. No wonder we often feel brighter and more positive when the sun is shining. But it’s not sunlight hitting our skin that causes this release of serotonin, it’s actually when it goes in through our eyes and hits the retina.
The sun emits so much more than the visible light that we can see. It emits the full electromagnetic spectrum of radiation, including infra-red which we can feel (heat) and UV which we can neither see nor feel…until it is too late and we have gone red in our quest for a ‘healthy’ tan (more on that later).
Exposure to UVB radiation is not all bad. It allows the body to generate much needed vitamin D, which plays a big role in our bone health and prevents diseases like rickets and osteoporosis. Mild sun exposure can also help with some skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne and jaundice. But don’t let this be your excuse for being a sun worshipper! Those with fair skin need just 5 to 15 minutes sun exposure on your arms, 2-3 times a week to produce enough vitamin D.
So whilst there are benefits to getting out in the sun, it still emits strong and damaging UVA and UVB radiation. These can both burn and age your skin, cause pigmentation and in extreme cases alter your DNA, causing skin cancers.
UVB radiation is strongest between 11am and 3pm and in the summer months. It has the largest effect on the top most layers of skin and is responsible for causing our skin to burn. It is also the cause of the most aggressive form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. Be sure to use high factor sun protection (SPF) daily, ideally 30 and above. UVB rays can be filtered and do not pass through glass so you are generally safe from these indoors.
UVA radiation is lower in energy than UVB but it makes up to 95% of the UV that reaches the earth and can penetrate into the skin more deeply. It is also the same strength at all times of day and months of the year. It isn’t filtered out by glass or clouds so can still get through to you even when you are inside. It is the main source of UV used in tanning beds.
We don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but in all honesty, there is no such things as a ‘healthy’ tan. The tan we develop is our body’s attempt to protect itself from further UV damage.
UVA is responsible for premature ageing of the skin. Signs of photoaging include wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, pigmentation and rough and uneven skin texture. A suntan might look nice in the short term but it will inevitably lead to ageing, if not something more sinister. Look for ‘broad spectrum’ on your SPFs to ensure adequate protection from UVA and also the ‘star’ rating, with 5 stars being the best.
So our take home advice….wear spf daily! We have an extensive range available and there is sure to be one to fit every skin type and budget. Don’t forget your lips! They are so often missed when applying sunscreen so opt for a lip balm with added protections like those from Albus and Flora.
And finally…ditch those sunbeds! They are just NOT worth it. If you want a tan, fake it! It’s safe and your future self and skin will thank you!