What Are the Effects of the Sun on the Skin?
There is no doubt that the sun has positive effects on our lives. On sunny days it lifts our mood and is involved in the synthesis of vitamin D, which is essential for the storage of calcium in our bones. However, the benefits of the sun end when we are exposed to ultraviolet light for too long. The skin has a memory, and every time we expose it to the sun's rays, it increases the likelihood that it will suffer skin damage, which may not even show up for several years.
The following oneHOWTO article explains how the sun affects the skin and what you can do to avoid possible damage.
Benefits of the sun for our health
The first thing you think of when you think of the sun is that it can do harm, and too much sun can lead to serious health problems. However, you can benefit from small amounts, especially early in the day before the sun is brightest. Below are some benefits you can get from moderate sun exposure:
Strengthens the bones
The sun intervenes in the synthesis of vitamin D, which is essential for the binding of calcium in the bones. The UV rays it emits stimulate the production of this type of vitamin. Although many vitamins and minerals are absorbed through food, vitamin D is produced by the skin when the metabolism has a precursor called 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is obtained by the UV rays of the sun.
Improves the appearance of the skin
UV rays have an immunosuppressive and therefore anti-inflammatory effect. Due to this, some people with acne-prone skin report improved skin conditions after moderate sun exposure. However, it is important that you adequately protect your skin, as the risks of sun-related skin damage outweigh the benefits.
Lowers blood pressure
Sunbathing dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, which lowers blood pressure. This happens because vitamin D reduces levels of parathyroid hormone, which releases calcium from bones and regulates blood pressure. So, when vitamin D levels increase, parathyroid hormone and blood pressure decrease.
Cholesterol levels tend to decrease in the summer. This is because sunlight promotes the metabolism of cholesterol and consequently lowers blood cholesterol levels when we expose our skin.
Mood, sex, and sleep
The ultraviolet rays of the sun increase the production of endorphins and serotonin, which are considered antidepressants. In addition, these substances work together with testosterone to promote sexual activity. In addition, sunlight helps you sleep better because it acts on melatonin in the skin, a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
Harmful effects of the sun on the skin
When we expose our skin to the sun without protection, the harmful effects accumulate. As a result, the probability of suffering from a skin disease increases with the years.
The skin produces melanin when it comes into contact with the sun and turns brown to protect itself from the ultraviolet rays. However, this defense mechanism of our body is not enough to protect the skin from the effects of both ultraviolet rays:
- UV rays: They are responsible for causing the skin to produce melanin and take on a brownish hue. These rays do not burn, but they penetrate the deep layers of the skin and can cause long-term damage.
- UVB rays: These rays act on the outer layer of the skin and cause the typical redness associated with burns.
Below, we explain how the sun affects the skin and how important it is to take sunbaths in moderation and to protect yourself sufficiently.
If you want to learn more about melanin and its various functions, continue reading this other article, where we discuss what melanin does.
UVB rays damage skin cells by altering and destroying DNA. In this way, the body detects an increase in ultraviolet solar radiation and increases the production of melanin. However, our skin is not able to defend itself against prolonged exposure, so the cells are damaged and sunburn occurs.
Another effect of excessive sun exposure on the skin is its premature aging. Ultraviolet light damages collagen fibers and leads to excessive enlargement of abnormal elastin fibers. The explanation for this phenomenon is the body's reaction as a defense mechanism that causes the formation of fibers that cause wrinkles and skin depressions. When this happens, the skin shows premature lesions such as sagging, roughness and pigment changes.
Skin cancer is another effect that sun exposure can have on the skin, and it is important to know how to protect against it. Although people tend to generalize, there are two types of skin cancer: melanoma and skin carcinoma. In both cases, the main risk factor is ultraviolet solar radiation. As we have already explained, these rays cause mutations in the DNA of the cells and prevent their repair.
In this case, the damaged cells are the melanocytes, i.e., those responsible for the production of melanin. As a result of the changes that take place in the cells, they multiply uncontrollably and invade the surrounding healthy tissue. Melanoma is more common in people with fair skin and light eyes, who find it more difficult to tan.
This type of cancer starts in the cells that make up the epidermis. It usually occurs in areas of the skin that have been exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (e.g., from tanning beds) for a long time. As in the previous case, people with fair skin and light eyes are more frequently affected.
Most red moles are not cancerous, but sometimes they can be a cause for concern. Read on in this other article where we talk about whether a red mole can be carcinogenic.
Damage to the eyes
Excessive sun exposure can cause reversible vision problems such as irritation, dry eyes, and even some types of corneal burns, or irreversible problems that damage the retina enough to cause blindness.
Inhibition of the immune system
We have already explained that sunlight helps to strengthen the immune system. However, prolonged exposure that excessively exposes our skin to ultraviolet radiation can affect the proper functioning of the body's defenses and skin.
Tips to prevent sun damage to the skin
Protection from UV rays is important all year round, not just in summer. UV rays can reach you even on cloudy and cool days, and they are reflected from surfaces such as water, cement, sand, and snow. For this reason, you should protect yourself from the sun at all times by following these recommendations:
- Moderation: The sun has a beneficial effect on the skin, but for this it is necessary that the sunbaths do not last too long. We should try to sunbathe only briefly, during the hours when the sun's intensity is lower, such as dawn and dusk, and not for more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Sunscreen: Using sunscreen along with hats, umbrellas, and sunglasses is essential to minimize the risk of sun exposure to our skin. Protective cream should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure because that is how long it takes for the skin to absorb it. Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher before going outside. Remember to apply a thick layer to all exposed skin areas.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the delicate skin around your eyes from the sun. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection.
If you want to learn more about how to protect your skin from the sun, do not miss this other article, where we give the best tips on how to properly protect your skin from the sun.
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