Sun and the Skin
Compare the skin on your buttocks and your face. Notice the difference? It is all due to sun exposure! 90% of your skin damage is caused by the sun.
The sun rays (that can pass through ozone) can be divided into 3 parts. Infrared rays (heat), visible light (the light that we can see), and Ultra Violet or UV rays. Here’s the low down on each of these:
This is what we sense as ‘heat’. While infrared rays are low energy rays, their frequency happens to match the frequency of atoms and molecules in our body. This causes them to vibrate with resonance. This is what creates the heat. Although ‘absorbing’ infrared rays this way does not affect us in the short term, prolonged exposure will lead to premature aging. Intense heat, the kind from electric heaters, baking ovens, etc. can lead to a condition called erythema ab igne.
This is the safest form of light. Every living thing on earth, including us need sunlight to function. Lack of sunlight in this form can also lead to depression. We’ve all experienced the feelings or surge in our energy and mood, on a bright sunny day!
Over exposure to sunlight, especially in the blue light region, has however been linked to age-related eye problems (macular degeneration).
Ultra Violet (UV rays)
There are 3 kinds – UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, in the increasing order of their frequencies (and decreasing order of wave lengths).
UV-C is blocked by the ozone layer.
UV-B are the most intense rays of sun that reach us. They tend to damage the outer layers of the skin, and are the chief cause of skin reddening, sunburn. They also play a key role in the development of skin cancer. They do not penetrate glass. Almost all sunscreens block UV-B rays, however only broad spectrum sunscreens block UV-A.
UV-A – Although are less intense than UV-B, they are 30-50 times more prevalent. They penetrate right through clouds and glass, and are present throughout the year with relatively equal intensity. UV-A rays play the most significant role in premature skin aging. They are also believed to play a contributing role in development of skin cancer. Tanning beds use UV-A. According to recent research, first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.
Both UV-A, and UV-B, also release free radicals and break down collagen and elastin, two elements that help maintain a healthy, youthful-looking skin. On a side note, smoking also releases an enormous amount of free radicals. Smoking will rapidly age you in many ways. See out lifestyle section for more information.
How do we protect ourselves?
- Avoid midday sun (10am to 4pm). That’s when the UV-B intensity is highest.
- Always use broad spectrum sunscreen when you are in any kind of sun (even on a cool shady day). All sunscreens are good at blocking UVB, but UVA are blocked only by those sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (also known as Parasol 1789), or Mexoryl (also known as Ecamsule.) It is predominantly UV-A that causes skin aging, so keep this in mind.
- Avoid tanning beds!
- For mothers – Most people have already done significant damage to their skin by the time they are adults. The long term effects of this DNA damage, however, only show up later. Keep kids out of day time sun as much as you can, and always use sunscreen when they are out.
- Incorporate foods rich in anti-oxidants (blueberries, red grapes, red berries, red and pinto beans, broccoli, kale, nuts, etc.) in your daily diet, and supplement with vitamins and phyto-nutrients.
Get a Skin Analysis Consultation
Any existing topical sun damage that cannot be seen by naked eyes can be visible through a skin analysis machine. Effects of sun damage can even be reversed if treated early. Talk to your skin care consultant for more information.
What about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is very essential for bone health, circulatory health, and it’s deficiency has been linked to a wide variety of health conditions. Also see our ‘genetics‘ section for more information. Depending on the color of your skin, and the place where you live, the amount of sun required for Vitamin D varies widely. However, that is no reason to be in the sun without adequate protection, and sunscreen. It will do more damage than good. The best way to make sure you get enough vitamin D is through supplementation. A daily consumption of 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3 is recommended.
Sources and External Links: