Everyone loves the summer. Most people enjoy feeling the warm sun on their bare skin; however, too much sun can lead to sunburn and skin damage. It is vitally important to protect your skin from the sun because its rays can cause irreparable damage, even after the redness has faded.
What causes a sun tan?
Although a sun tan can look great and many people feel better with bronzed limbs, the act of tanning is simply your skin trying to protect itself. Once you have developed a tan, this means your skin has already suffered some type of damage. When the UV rays from the sun penetrate the skin, your skin fights back by releasing melanin. This gives the skin a light brown pigment – the tan colour – that serves as a natural defence against further sun damage.
UVA and UVB rays
Sun tans comes from the UVA rays and sunburn from the UVB rays. The UVA rays cause premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, dryness and discolouration, while the UVB rays will cause your skin to turn red and eventually blister. This means you have damaged the skin’s DNA. Although the initial result is pain, there could be even more sinister results in the future, as the DNA damage could lead to skin cancer in later life. This is especially dangerous for children’s sensitive skin.
How to protect your skin
To protect your skin, it is best to always use a sun cream with a high UVA and UBA protection factor. This means at least factor 30 to protect against UVB rays and a high number of stars to protect against UVA rays. Try to stay in the shade during the time when the sun is at its strongest, which is between 12pm and 3pm. It is also a good idea to keep skin covered up with loose, long-sleeved tops and a long skirt or trousers, while a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will protect your face and head.
If you do get sunburn, the first thing to do is try to get out of the sun and cool your skin down to minimise the burn. This means splashing cold water onto your skin. Do not put any oily creams onto your skin, as this could form a barrier and keep the heat in. Having a cool bath will help to relieve the pain, as the cool water will reduce the burning sensation. After the initial few hours, you might want to try applying a cold compress or a cooling, non-oily lotion such as aloe vera gel. If the burn is bad, you could apply a topical treatment from the pharmacy.
Do not wear clothing on your damaged skin if you are indoors, as this will only irritate your sensitive areas and trap the heat in. If you must go out, make sure that you cover the area and do not expose it to any more sun. If your skin is badly damaged, you might find blisters forming on the sunburned areas. Do not try to pop the blisters – simply continue with the cold compresses and aloe vera lotion. Mild sunburn should heal in a few days, but moderate to severe sunburn will take longer.