Sun protection is of increasing importance, as the rate of skin cancer is on the rise. Our desire for a dark sun tan exposes us to the Sun's ultraviolet rays which can have detrimental effects on our skin and health. However, sunscreen lotions may not be the answer...
The Sun and Your Skin - A love hate relationship
Sun Protection: The Sun and Your Skin
What exactly does the sun do to your skin?
Why Are Ultraviolet Rays from Sunlight Potentially Harmful to Our Skin?
There are two types of ultraviolet rays that have the potential to seriously damage our skin both in the short and the long term.
The shorter of the two is known as UVB. UVB rays do not penetrate the skin deeply, however, they can cause major damage to the DNA and are the type of radiation that will cause sunburn and lead to skin cancer.
The longer wavelength rays are UVA rays. These penetrate much deeper into the skin and produce free radicals. UVA radiation is associated with premature aging of the skin, also known as photo-aging.
How and Why Do You Get A Tan After Sun Exposure?
Exposing the skin to sunlight causes the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) to become thicker and initiates the melanocytes (cells in the skin that produce melanin - darker pigment) to produce melanin at a faster rate (Melanin absorbs the energy of UV light and prevents the light from penetrating deeper into the tissues). This process results in your skin developing a tan, the purpose of which is to give your skin increased protection against sunlight.
Problems associated with excessive or over-exposure to sun light:
There is quite a list of problems that can result from over-exposure to sunlight. The problems range from short to long term and they vary in severity from mild sunburn to malignant skin cancers that are potentially deadly.
Mild sunburn is not a major problem. The pain can be eased by using Aloe vera and Lavender and should not last more than a day or so. However, repeated sunburn will cause skin damage and premature ageing of the skin is usually the long term result. However, with increased severity of sunburn and increased frequency, developing skin cancers or skin tumours becomes a real possibility.
Skin cancers vary in severity and range from benign skin growths which can easily be removed to potentially fatal skin cancers that can spread to other parts of the body and may result in death. Not a price one should be willing to pay for a tan...
The skin is not the only organ that can suffer from over-exposure to the sun. The eyes are also susceptible to the sun's rays and may get damaged if not protected. Cataract, macular degeneration and other eye disorders are common results of over-exposure to the sun's radiation. While it is unlikely to loose one's eyesight as a direct result, there is always the possibility of complications that may end up in reduced or loss of eyesight.
Snow, water and even sand are highly reflective surfaces and on bright sunny days they multiply the effects of radiation. That is, even if you are sitting in the shade on a beach, the reflected radiation off the water and sand has the potential to cause serious sun damage to your skin. It is therefore very important to a) be aware of this and b) take preventative measures.
How to protect yourself from the sun's radiation
Wearing clothing that covers your whole body is one way to protect yourself. Using a wide-rimed hat, sunglasses, a long sleeve shirt and light, but full-length pants when out in the sun, is probably the best way to keep the harmful rays off your skin.
Stay in the shade as much as possible and avoid going out into the sun during the hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in Summer and 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in Winter. Be careful of Daylight-Saving Time.
How Effective Is Your Sunscreen Lotion?
We are told that sunscreen lotions which contain SPFs (Sun Protection Factors) are also beneficial to keep the skin from burning, as they prevent the harmful rays from penetrating the skin. However, it has been shown that at least some of the ingredients used in these UV-protecting sunscreen lotions (ones that include SPFs) are potentially harmful to our health and should be avoided (Jarry, et al., 2004). This is why, we at Wildcrafted Herbal Products, do not put SPFs into any of our natural skin care products, but rely on anti-oxidants and other ingredients to help the skin cope with exposure to the elements.
Researchers have shown that “… sunscreens may prevent skin redness partly by UV absorption and partly by inhibiting the skin’s inflammatory response. As such, sunscreens might promote instead of protect against melanomas” 2,3. Another 5-year skin cancer study in Queensland, Australia, into the effectiveness of sunscreens, showed that from an initial 1621 participants, there was no difference in the number of skin cancers between the group of people who used sunscreens and the ones that did not. In other words, this study showed, that whether you use sunscreen protection or not, your chances of developing skin cancer is the same 3. Serpone, et al., (2007) report several other studies that showed similar results, that is, they showed the ineffectiveness of sunscreens.
Considering the wide use of sunscreens (containing SPFs) one could reasonably expect the incidence of skin cancers to reduce, however, this is not the case and in fact, especially in the northern hemisphere, the incident of skin cancer seems to be rising...
Natural Means of Protecting Your Skin
Apart from covering your body when out in the sun, there are additional precautions you can take to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Essential Oils and Herbal Extracts:
Natural Skin Care Products:
© Wildcrafted Herbal Products, 2007
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