(Originally published on June 16, 2015)
Summer time is the favorite season for many of us. In the summer we spend most of our time outdoors, enjoying the sun. However, exposing ourselves to the UV radiation comes not only with it's own benefits but also with many dangers. Lets talk about the good stuff first.
What are the benefits of being exposed to the sun?
1. Sun helps our body produce Vitamin D
Moderate daily exposure is needed so the body can naturally produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as without it our body can not absorb calcium and phosphorus. Considering that we can not get enough Vitamin D from food, getting just enough sun is important. But how much is enough? Well, there is no definite answer to this question, as everybody has different tolerance to the sun. Figuring out what is yours is important. Fitzpatrick Scale, the classification of skin types based on the way these types react to the sun, may be helpful.
According to the Canadian Dermatology Association 3 main factors that influence the type of skin are: genetic disposition, reaction to sun exposure and tanning habits. As you can see from the chart above people with fair skin may get sunburned faster that those with darker skin. The time limit for unprotected sun exposure may vary between different skin types. According to the Fitzpatrick scale my skin type is 3, so my doctor recommends me spending 15 minutes out in the sun daily. This time may be as little as 5 minutes for someone with very light skin, or as much as 20+ minutes for someone with darker skin.
2. Sun kissed complexion
Being in the sun also stimulates our melanocytes to produce more melanin, which results in darkening of our skin. This "browning" is what many women strive to achieve as they find it very attractive. Suntan is both an advantage and a danger. Keep reading to learn why.
3. Better mood
This one is self-explanatory, I think. Who doesn't enjoy being in the sun? Unfortunately the sun doesn't always pay us back with the same kind of love.
Here is a list of most common dangers associated with sun exposure.1. Sunburn
Sunburn is a form of radiation burn that affects living tissue, such as skin, that results from an overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, commonly from the sun. I would assume that most of us have had sunburns. So we know just how painful they are. Sunburns are also very dangerous as they have been linked to development of skin cancer. The society nowadays is very well aware of dangers of sunburns and is very educated about protecting the skin with sunscreens. Even our children know that applying the sunscreen before going outside is a must. My children always ask for the "white stuff" so the sun "doesn't bite them". But sunscreen is not the only thing we can use to prevent sunburns. There are other measures we can take to protect our skin even before we get exposed, such as not going in the sun between 10am and 3 pm, during the peak of sun activity, or wearing hat, sunglasses and protective clothing. Women in the East also like to use their umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun (I think we need to adapt this habit here in the West as well).
Sunburn is not the only "side effect" of sun exposure. The other one is suntan. Suntan is browning of the skin caused by exposure to the sun. I know I have listed it as a second advantage of being in the sun as well. While I personally I enjoy a slight tint to my skin I also understand the consequences it comes with. Here is the mechanism behind the tan - excessive solar radiation causes direct and indirect DNA damage to the skin, and the body naturally combats and seeks to repair the damage and protect the skin by creating and releasing more melanin into the skin's cells. With the production of the melanin, the skin color darkens, and that is how we get suntan. So tan is the defensive mechanism of our skin. It is a way our skin tries to stop the tissue damage. So tan skin is always damaged skin. Suntan leads to premature aging of the skin, which result in loss of elasticity, wrinkling and sagging. Hyper pigmentation and so-called sun spots are common complications from tanning. Skin that has been frequently exposed to the sun also appears to be more dry and flaky and can not retain moisture as well as it once used to.
Sunstroke is a type of heatstroke. Heatstroke is a condition that occurs after exposure to excessive heat. In sunstroke—also called heat illness, heat injury, hyperthermia, heat prostration, and heat collapse—the source of heat is the sun. Although this one isn't related to skin care, it is a very important danger associated with being under the sun.
The sun and heat can also make you sweat more, thus making you loose more fluids from your body. This may lead to dehydration. Aside from skin dryness, dehydration may lead to much more serious consequences such as fainting and even death.
As you can see sun exposure comes with it's own risks and benefits. So choose your battles wisely and practice safe sun!