You enjoy sitting outside on those sunny days. While the health benefits of the sun are real, such as the production of vitamin D, the dangers are also real. Sun tan lotion gives you some protection, but you can't rely on it to protect you from all skin damage. Avoid needing sun damage repair of skin problems by understanding how your skin reacts to the sun and what you can do to prevent skin damage.
Ultraviolet Light Holds an Invisible Threat to Your Skin
Sunlight is made up of the part you can see, and three waves of ultraviolet light (UV) that you can't. It's the invisible light spectrum that causes skin damage from overexposure to the sun. Each of these UV waves behaves a little differently:
- Ultraviolet A - The UVA waves make up the majority of light that hits your skin. These waves can easily pass through clouds, glass and your light clothing. UVA waves hit the planet year-round.
- Ultraviolet B - The UVB waves are easily blocked by glass and clothing and are most numerous during the summer months.
- Ultraviolet C - Most of the UVC waves are blocked by the Earth's atmosphere so your sun rarely feels them.
How Your Skin Reacts to Ultraviolet Waves
You might be proud of that golden tan, but it's really your body's way of protecting itself from skin damage. Your skin produces melanin in response to UV waves. Melanin is a dark pigment that your skin uses to block the waves from damaging the delicate tissues in the skin.
But your body can only produce a limited amount of melanin. After that limit is reached, UV waves continue to enter your skin and cause damage. The UVB waves affect the outermost layer of skin. The UVA waves go deep into the skin layers and damage skin cells. UVB waves are responsible for your sunburns and skin cancers on the skin. UVA waves cause cancerous cells to develop deep within the skin layers.
Sun Tan Lotion Only Slows Down the Damage
In spite of numerous formulations of sun tan lotions on the market, more than 65 thousand people each year are diagnosed with skin cancer. That's often due to people relying too much on these products to protect their skin.
Sun screen lotions work by limiting the amount of UV waves that enter the skin. The sun protection factor, or SPF, of a lotion tells you how long you can stay in the sun before you'll start to see damage, which you'll notice when your skin becomes red. A higher SPF means you can stay in the sun longer. For lotion to give you the most protection, it must be applied evenly on all exposed skin and reapplied according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once the lotion loses effectiveness, your skin is vulnerable to damage from the UV waves.
Signs That You've Damaged Your Skin
If your skin has been overexposed to UVB waves, you'll notice:
- bright red skin that turns dry and scaly
- wrinkling of skin as it dries out from the sun
Overexposure to the UVA waves, which travel deep into the skin, will result in:
- brown patches under the skin that don't go away
- bruising from broken blood vessels under the skin
- hard patches under the skin
Sun damage repair often requires removal of damaged tissue to allow your skin to produce new tissue to replace the damaged layers.
Preventing Sun Damage to Your Skin
Limiting your skin's exposure to the sun is the only way to prevent damage from the ultraviolet waves. A combination of approaches will keep your skin safe:
- Make sure your skin lotion says it protects you from both UVA and UVB waves.
- Apply the lotion evenly over all of the skin exposed to the sun.
- Set a timer so you know when to reapply lotion.
- Apply lotion more often if water or sweat washes the lotion off of your skin.
- If not using lotion, cover the skin with darker fabrics to protect from UVA waves.
- Get out of the sun at the first sign of reddened skin.
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