Safely Sun-Kissed & How you can protect your skin while tanning
Why is it that some people get a sunburn after spending only 1 hour outside? And why is it that some people seem to be ultra resistant to tan and can never achieve a beautiful sun-kissed tan?
In this article we would like to gather a little information to better understand how suntan works, so that we can better protect our skin.
Our skin color and tan have one thing in common: they both mainly come from Melanin, a dark pigment produced in the melanocytes (types of skin cells) that is also found in hair and eyes. As the Encyclopedia Britannica says “the blondest whites have as many as the darkest blacks. Colour differences are due solely to the amount of melanin produced and the nature of the pigment granules.” This means that it is not the amount of melanocytes that determines the colour, but the amount of pigment they produce.
Melanocytes are also infamously known to be the cells that can develop melanomas, a type of skin cancer caused by improper exposure to UV radiations.
But does tanning actually work?
UV light is 99% UVA and 1% UVB. Melanocytes are triggered by UV light exposure to produce more melanin as a way to protect the skin from sunlight. Since melanocytes take hours to increase melanin production, sunburn is the result of prolonged exposure to the sun before the melanocytes have finished their precious work.
After some days of laying under the sun, your skin will build up melanin and appear golden. Different ethnicities have a different amount of melanin already stored in their skin because of evolutionary causes, thus the amount of time to get tanned will vary.
But UV light does not affect our skin only in the summer months, or only when it’s not cloudy. Except for night time, UV light can always come with some degree of risk. This is why dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen throughout the year; and here are some reasons you should too: sunscreen can not only protect your skin from melanomas and UV light, but it also prevents signs of ageing, uneven complexion and discoloration. We can all agree that wearing sunscreen is pretty important! Let’s take a look at the science behind sunscreens.
Sunscreens block or absorb UV light thanks to physical and/or chemical ingredients used for the formulation.
Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide is an ingredients that physically block UV light; Chemical ingredients can be PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid, be careful if you have sensitive skin), Cinnamates (absorb UVB), Benzophenones (absorb UVA), Anthranilates (absorb UVA and UVB), and Ecamsules (absorb UVA).
Chemical sunscreen absorbs UV rays, converts them into heat, and releases them from the body. Physical sunblock sits on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays.
Physical sunblock tends to be more moisturizing, less irritating and a better fit for sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreen tends to blend better into the skin and be water-resistant, therefore they are often used by people that enjoy swimming and playing
Sunscreen have a SPF number, or Sun Protection Factor, which states how much time you can be safe under the sun before getting sunburned.
“The number of seconds it takes a patch of skin to slightly redden when covered in sunscreen is divided by the number of seconds it takes to slightly redden when there is no sunscreen applied. Say it took 300 seconds for skin to burn with sunscreen, and 10 seconds to burn without it. 300 is divided by 10, which is 30. The SPF is 30.”*
Therefore a higher SPF doesn’t indicate you will be more protected, it means you will be protected for longer. A couple more things to keep in mind are that sunscreen can’t 100% block all UV rays, which will be able to pass through the suncreen in varying amount; and that the SPF is determined by applying a generous amount of senscreen to the skin. This means that, to achieve the same protection level stated on the sunscreen, you need to apply the same amount, which is a rather thick layer of cream, and re-apply it every two hours.
Nevertheless, sunscreen are a useful and practical tool to protect our skin and prevent skin ageing and melanomas. Always apply sunscreen as last step of your morning skin care routine, or before make-up.
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