Our sun, which is actually a billion year old star, is vital to sustain life on earth but has ravaging effects on our skins. Radiation from the sun is part of the electromagnetic spectrum [light] that reaches the planet.
During the 1950's and 60's , due to ignorance, people would bake in the sun for hours to attain a much desired dark tan, fashionable in those times. As a result, years down the line the consequences are frightening as various forms of skin cancers have resulted.
Having said that, small doses of ultra violet can be ben UV radiation eficial in the formation of Vitamin B in the body and to treat complaints like Psoriasis and eczema.
In the long term the UV radiation induces degeneration in the skin cells, fibrous tissue and blood capillaries resulting in skin cancer and eye damage in the form of cataracts. Solar radiation is proven to be a carcinogen as exposure leads to genetic mutations.
Premature aging characterized by leathery skin and deep furrows is an unpleasant result of sun damage. Early detection of lesions is vital as these can be surgically removed.
Despite this, 66 000 people per annum suffer from serious melanomas. Any lesion that changes in size colour or spreads should be medically examined.
Basically damage is caused by UVA and UVB rays, the former being the long rays that reach the basal levels of the epidermis, are responsible for skin darkening and injury to the cell's DNA, resulting in skin cancer. The latter, the UVB rays are shorter and reach the upper levels of the epidermis and cause reddening and sunburn.
It is worth mentioning at this point, the damage caused by sunbeds. Salon doses of UVA can be as much as 12 times that of natural sunlight and the use of tanning beds in youth can increase the risk of melanomas by 75%!
Some signs of skin damage include rough scaly patches, more likely felt than seen, the appearance of freckles, which are relatively harmless as are pale wax-like patches, dark circular spots [commonly called liver spots] due to increased pigment and white spots due to hypo-pigmentation.
Darker skins have better protection from sun damage as against fairer ones, but no one is immune from solar radiation. But all is not gloom and doom. Common sense plays a big role by keeping out of the sun from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm when the sun is at its zenith.
Make use of:
• Clothes to cover the body
• Good sunglasses with UV blockers in the lenses
• Application of broad spectrum sunscreens ~ preferably water resistant.
Newborn babies must never be exposed to the sun and over the age of 6 months sun blocker should be used. Adults should re-apply cream, especially after swimming and perspiring in the heat of summer.
A much desired suntan by some may be acquired by using sunless products.
Some products contain an active substance DHA a type of sugar which reacts with the dead surface cells causing a colour change. Others contain an amino acid tyrosine which stimulates melanin production.
In conclusion, there is no excuse for ignorance with all the knowledge and the extensive array of products available from the lower SPF factor 5 right up to 40 and higher.
With the holiday season upon us, have "fun in the sun" ensuring maximum protection.