Sun Exposure

Sun Exposure: How Much Is Too Much?

We all love it when spring turns to summer. We can finally escape the indoors and experience sunshine for the first time in months (well, for those of us in cooler climates anyway). The sun feels great on our skin and the Vitamin D really boosts our energy and lifts our spirits! We also like to get a little tan too because it gives you a healthy and attractive glow! While all this is good and necessary, one must still ask: How much sun is too much sun? After all, by now we know that skin cancer is a very real threat and that the sun’s rays can cause a lot of harm and damage. While vitamin D is essential for many things, the ultraviolet light that comes off the sun can be detrimental for our skin.

The Sun’s Effect On Skin

Melanin is a pigment in your skin that determines the tone of your skin. It lies within your epidermal layer, the outer layer, and it protects your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Why? Because these rays burn the skin, and over time you will see the very real effects of this. Your skin starts to wrinkle, sag, and simply age prematurely. This is due to the damage on your skin that reduces the collagen and elastin. So why do you tan? Tanning occurs because your skin produces more melanin when exposed to sun and it therefore darkens. However, your tan eventually fades because the cells with more melanin eventually fall off and new ones replace the dead cells.

The Damaging Effects Of The Sun

As you know, too much exposure to the sun can cause burning, more for some people than others. UV rays can penetrate the epidermis and damage deeper layers, causing a lot of damage. The reason why fairer-skinned people burn more easily is because they have less melanin to block these harmful UV rays. These people need to be extra careful in the sun. This includes using sunblock on a regular basis and limiting your sun exposure time!

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is the worst case scenario for overexposure to the sun. Sun exposure can cause a variety of serious effects. Some of these include: pre-cancerous skin lesions, benign tumors, wrinkles, discoloration, and elastosis. The last of these, by the way, is the destruction of collagen and elastin that I mentioned before. This is the cause of wrinkles and lines, because elastin and collagen are responsible for keeping skin tight, firm, and soft. So what exactly causes skin cancer? It is the most prevalent form of cancer in the US. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. This growth is either cancerous or benign. There are three forms of skin cancer, but I’ll just mention melanoma so you understand the importance of skin care. Melanoma is the most serious type and it causes 75% of skin cancer deaths. In fact, if left untreated this cancer can spread, even to other organs.

What Can I Do To Protect My Skin?

There are a lot of ways to protect your skin, but remember, protection is the operative word. If you feel yourself getting burnt, or if you see your skin turning pink, putting on sunscreen at the point is pointless. Getting out of the sun is the best way to avoid serious damage. It’s best to apply sunscreen with a 30 SPF or higher 20 minutes before you go out in the sun and every two hours after that. Even if you don’t directly go tanning, sun damage can occur just from going out and about in the sun every day. So make sure you wear proper sunscreen and wear clothing that protects. The peak hours of UV radiation are between 10 am and 2pm, so limit your exposure during these hours. That being said, moderate skin exposure certainly has its benefits. Low Vitamin D levels have been tied to poor bone health and other medical conditions. Sun can also help reverse seasonal affective disorder. A little sun can go a long way!