Stepping out on a bright sunny day may feel good, but the sun does a number on your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate the skin, causing both immediate and long-term damage. We’ll take a deeper look at skin damage caused by the sun. However, sunlight serves an invaluable role in your physical and mental health. Human beings weren’t meant to live in the dark.
4 Reasons the Sun is Bad for Your Skin
Premature aging and wrinkles
The two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that are most concerning for the skin are UVA and UVB rays. The less dangerous are UVB rays. The atmosphere prevents some UVB rays from reaching the earth’s surface. However, these rays affect the skin’s outer layer, directly damaging skin cell DNA. UVB rays are also thought to cause most of the damage that leads to sunburns.
UVA rays penetrate the atmosphere better than UVB rays. They also penetrate to the skin’s deeper layers, causing damage that’s not visibly noticeable until it begins to accumulate over time. UVA rays reach the skin’s middle layer and break down collagen. Collagen maintains the flexibility and strength of the skin. Over time, the body cannot rebuild the collagen enough to prevent wrinkles and fine lines from appearing.
The skin produces melanin to darken the skin and prevent UV rays from penetrating and damaging the skin. These cells give the skin its tanned appearance. Prolonged, chronic sun exposure can lead to clumps of these pigment cells that are sometimes called sun spots, liver spots, or age spots. Uneven pigmentation ages the visual appearance of the skin.
UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn. Sunburns are radiation burns that turn the skin varying shades of red. Depending on the degree of the burn (1st to 3rd degree), they can be incredibly painful and may lead to blisters, peeling skin, and sun sensitivity in the affected area. Repeated sunburns can also contribute to cell damage that leads to skin cancer.
Chronic overexposure to harmful UV rays can alter the skin cells and cause skin cancer. Skin cancer can develop in skin of all colors. However, people with fair, light skin are more susceptible to sun damage and, therefore, skin cancer.
How to Protect Your Skin
- Always wear sunblock. Winter, summer, cloud, or sunshine, wear a physical sunblock like SkinResourceMD’s Essential Solar Protector or Hyaluronic Facial Solar Protector. Physical sunblocks prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin rather than absorbing them like chemical sunscreen.
- Stay out of the sun from 10 to 4. The sun’s rays are at their most direct during the middle of the day. If you can, stay out of the sun during these hours.
- Cover your skin. Hats, long sleeves, and long pants prevent UV rays from reaching the skin. However, thin clothing may let through more sunshine than you’d like, so wear your sunscreen.
- Treat the damage. There are products like SkinResourceMD’s Baobab Skin Correction Facial Cream and Total Antioxidant - Vitamin C Facial Serum that can help with uneven pigmentation and other signs of sun damage.
Reasons you need the sun
It’s important to protect your skin, but the sun isn’t all bad. Sunshine plays a role in physical and mental health, too.
The body uses UVB rays to make vitamin D that builds and maintains your bones. In fact, your body can only absorb calcium when there’s vitamin D available. This vital vitamin also acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune system support.
Consistent exposure to the sun helps you maintain adequate levels of mood-regulating hormones. For example, sunlight affects serotonin regulation, which influences your feelings of happiness. Lack of sun exposure contributes to some cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of seasonal depression.
Regular sleep cycle
The light that comes from the sun is primarily blue light. Blue light helps regulate the body’s sleep cycle by suppressing melatonin, a sleep hormone. When the sunlight begins to fade at the end of the day, melatonin levels begin to rise. You need sun exposure to keep your sleep cycle on track. In fact, some people who have trouble regulating their sleep cycle use bright light therapy, exposure to artificial blue light, to help them sleep better at night.
You need the sun to keep your body mentally and physically healthy. Be smart about sun exposure. Avoid peak hours, and always wear sun protection.