We’re talking about sun exposure this month. We’ve already established that there are a lot of amazing, beneficial things that happen when we are exposed to natural sunlight, but there is a fine line between beneficial and harmful and once we cross it some truly ugly things begin to happen in the skin. Here’s the rundown:
- Inflammation and its partner in crime, burning. These bad guys leave the door wide open for cellular “hackers” to come in and change DNA sequences which can lead to abnormal cell growth and skin cancer. UVB rays do the more immediate damage, but long-term UVA can do this too.
- Breakdown of collagen, elastin and fibronectin. Think of these fibers as the scaffolding or box spring holding up all of the other living tissues in your skin – it’s what gives your skin thickness elasticity and strength. There is nothing like long-term UVA exposure to destroy these fibers and leave skin thinning and lax.
- In an attempt to protect itself from all this collateral damage, your skin starts producing more pigmentation – think of it as the immune systems’ umbrella or cabana for skin, triggered by UV exposure and inflammation. The bad news is that even if this pigmentation starts out looking like an even tan in your 20’s, chances are high that you will wake up one day in your 30’s or 40’s with a whole crop of “spots” that are not so pretty and will be costly to remove.
So how do we know when enough is enough? While everyone has different genetics and unique needs, here are some basic guidelines:
- Aim for 15 – 30 minutes of unprotected exposure to natural sunlight about 3 times weekly.
- Try to get that exposure before 11am or after 5pm during summer months when UV radiation is at it’s highest.
- Try walking, biking, or swimming for those minutes, at those times of day – you’ll be getting some movement and the building blocks for Vitamin D all at the same time.
If you’re going
out on the boat, headed to the links or just goofing around with Goofy all day, this is not the time to get your natural light fix – you need to be protected during these episodes of prolonged exposure. Save these snippets of sunshine for times when you can really control how long you are out. Enjoy!