Shedding Light on Your Skin and the Sun

Who doesn’t love a beautiful, sunny day? The sun feels so nice. Many of us 40 years and older often abused our skin on nice sunny days. We tended to stay out in the sun without the protection of sunscreen to see how quickly we could tan, most often burning before developing that golden tan we desired.

You could say there is a love-hate relationship with the sun. While we love how it makes us feel there are negative effects of getting too much of it.

The long and short of the sun’s rays.

Sunlight reaches Earth as a mixture of waves – long and short. Long waves are harmless to us. But the shorter waves, ultraviolet (UV) rays, can cause issues. The shortest of the UV rays are called UVB rays. The longer ones are UVA rays.

Overexposure to UVB rays can lead to sunburn and skin cancer in the long run. UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB, causing long-term damage like wrinkles and aging. When they enter our skin’s cells, they affect the processes and appearance of our skin.

The effect of the sun on our skin’s appearance.

Our skin protects itself from sun exposure by increasing the amount of melanin in the skin (tanning) and by increasing the thickness of the skin. You may have seen someone who has exposed their skin to the sun most of their life – it looks tan and leathery.

The sun is responsible for 80% of premature skin aging. The sun’s UV rays are the primary cause of wrinkles, sun spots, uneven pigmentation, and textural roughness.

Our skin’s elasticity is also damaged by exposure to the sun. When elastin breaks down, the skin begins to sag and stretch. It no longer has the ability to remain taut or snap back smoothly, as it did in our youth. The skin also tears and bruises more easily.

There are in-office treatments designed to correct signs of aging including wrinkles, sagging skin and brown spots. These include Venus Viva and Photofacial or IPL treatments. To learn more, visit >>

Overexposure to the sun.

More serious than the dreaded signs of aging is the potential to develop skin cancer from exposure to the sun. Studies show that 80% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs by the time we’re 18, but cancer can take 20 years or more to develop. Children with just a few sunburns are believed to have an increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life. As a parent, be a good role model and foster healthy sun protection habits with your children.

It’s so important to use a sunscreen every day. Incidental sun exposure (driving in your car, doing a little yard work) accounts for the majority of our lifetime exposure. Outdoor sports activities near water, snow, sand, and concrete increase the exposure to the sun by reflecting up to 90% of the sun’s UV rays.

Aside from avoiding repeated sun exposure, sunscreen remains our best defense against the damaging effects of the sun. And being mindful about how much time you spend in the sun.

The skinny on sunscreens.

We’ve all lived by SPF. This stands for Sun Protection Factor, the measure of a product to protect your skin from UVB rays. Simply put, if it takes 1 minute for your unprotected skin to start turning red while in the sun, using an SPF 15 sunscreen prevents you from reddening 15 times longer.

SPF numbers can be confusing and it’s important to point out how they work. The higher the SPF, the smaller the increased protection. SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out 90% of damaging rays, SPF 30 filters out 93%.

It’s important to use a broad or full spectrum sunscreen. These sunscreens protect you from both UVB and UVA rays. In order for a product to be labeled broad spectrum, its UVA and UVB protection must be proportionate.

Remember to reapply, and reapply, especially if you are doing outdoor activities. It’s recommended to reapply every 90 minutes when outdoors. And remember that sunscreen is just as important whether it’s sunny or cloudy, as UV rays can penetrate clouds, fog, and mist.

We carry a great selection of medical grade sunscreens including ZO Skin Health and Elta MD broad-spectrum sunscreens. Speak to one of our skin care experts to learn which is best for you.

The sun and vitamin D.

Sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, which is needed for normal bone function and health. The two ways your body can get the vitamin D it needs is by taking vitamin D supplements and by exposing your bare skin to sunlight.  Your body cannot get the amount of vitamin D it requires simply from food.

Human skin can make large amounts of vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Scientists say to engage in ‘sensible sun exposure’ not more than 10 – 20 minutes of direct midday sun two to three times a week. Your exposure time depends on how sensitive your skin is to the sun.

Retinoid-based products and the sun.

While on the topic of the sun and aging, we should touch on retinoid-based products. Products containing retinoids (an overarching term for products containing retinol) are powerful warriors in improving wrinkles, skin tone, texture, acne and pigmentation issues. Retinoids are photo-inactivated, meaning they break down in the sunlight and are less effective. This is why they are always packaged in opaque packaging and are prescribed for use at night before going to bed. Many experts say it is not necessary to avoid sun exposure while using a retinol product at night. Retinoid-based products, a derivative of vitamin A, can somewhat thin the upper layer of skin decreasing its protective capacity. You can enjoy the sun, just remember to practice safe sun exposure practices.

It’s that time of year to begin spending more time in the sun. Remember your sunscreen and practice safe sun protection rituals.