Summer is the time to enjoy picnics, swimming, beach holidays, and the outdoors. On a beach holiday, you may love swimming and surfing or just prefer to lounge in the sand and get a tan. In winter, you often find yourselves heading to warmer places with the sun shining brightly. It is ok to get a reasonable suntan, but it is certainly not good to end up with sunburns or blisters.
Exposure to UV rays of the sun may even cause skin cancer, which is why we advise you to use good sunscreens with the right sun protection factor (SPF). Listed below are a few of the effects that exposure to sunlight can have on your skin if you don’t take proper precautions.
Tanning is one of the most common effects of UV exposure. While tanning is desirable to a certain extent and considered aesthetic in many parts of the world, it can also lead to the peeling of skin. The exposure causes increased melanin pigmentation, which results in a tan.
The melanin presence actually plays a photoprotective role and blocks the UV rays. To an extent, sunbathing and tanning helps in building the essential Vitamin D in the body and also strengthens protection against UV rays by increasing melanin in the epidermis. However, sunbathing to get a tan can also damage the skin with less or overuse of proper protection.
The exposure should be limited to 5 to 10 minutes about 3 times a week on the arms, legs, and face. However, the fact that greater sun exposure can cause lots of skin issues suggests that sunscreen usage during sunbathing is essential.1
It is possible that people may find a greater number of moles on their body due to sun exposure. Studies suggest that children who had more instances of sunburn than suntan in the previous 5 years or did not tan had more instances of moles. Children with freckles had more moles as compared to those did not have freckles. Similar studies have corroborated this among adults, as well. Hence, for people with sensitive skin, it is always better to cover the body properly with sunscreen to avoid the appearance of moles.2
Some people tend to get sunburns rather than suntans. Also, increased exposure to sunlight can cause a sunburn if you are prone to getting a tan easily. These burns can be extremely painful, and at times, you may find blisters on the body. The affected part will appear sore and red and may be itchy, too.
Few studies conducted on the link between sunlight and skin cancer suggest that people who tend to get sunburns before the age of 20 were more likely to develop skin cancer. So, if you are prone to sunburns, keep an eye out for signs and symptoms, limit your exposure to sunlight, and use sunscreen liberally.3
4. Skin Aging
People who have greater exposure to sunlight look older and also have more wrinkles. Though it sounds bizarre, a study concluded that apart from the aging look, sunlight also results in decreased collagen and increased elastosis, resulting in wrinkled skin. Hence, it is imperative to understand that sunscreen protection is vital for skin health, especially during outdoor activities and definitely during sunbathing.4
5. Skin Cancer
The worst effect of excessive exposure to sunlight is skin cancer. According to one study, not using sunscreens and a history of sunburns till the age of 12 are primary factors that increased the risk of skin cancer. The study also noted that the tan, even if maintained throughout the year, did not help in reducing the risk in any way.
These findings suggest that you should use sunscreen when exposed to the sun even if you have tans. For those with a history and current tendency of sunburns, sunscreen, proper care, and protection is a must.5
Different SPF For Different Exposure
Sunscreens protect you from the UV rays by absorbing, scattering, or reflecting the rays. The SPF mentioned on the product indicates its effectiveness. A sunscreen with SPF 4 means that the UV exposure the body receives during a certain period spent outdoors will be one-fourth of what it would be without any sunscreen usage. So, sunscreens with SPF 15 or more or the ones marked as broad-spectrum sunscreens are more preferable. If you have extremely fair skin or are prone to sunburns, then a higher SPF should be considered. At the same time, avoid the afternoon sun and limit the time spent in the sun.
Even application of sunscreen and allowing it to dry for 15 minutes before stepping out into the sun is better than getting out immediately. Depending on the time of the day and the amount of time spent in the sun, the second round of sunscreen may be required after half an hour or so.6
Some theories suggest that sunscreen usage might hamper the vitamin D production in the body. However, while sunscreen usage may reduce the production, it doesn’t result in a vitamin D deficiency.7Hence, given a choice between vitamin D deficiency and not using sunscreen, vitamin D deficiency may be a lesser of a risk than believed.
|↑1||Pickart, Loren R. “Compositions and methods for skin tanning and protection.” U.S. Patent 5,698,184, issued December 16, 1997.|
|↑2||Gallagher, Richard P., David I. McLean, C. Paul Yang, Andrew J. Coldman, Hulbert KB Silver, John J. Spinelli, and Marjorie Beagrie. “Suntan, sunburn, and pigmentation factors and the frequency of acquired melanocytic nevi in children: similarities to melanoma: the Vancouver Mole Study.” Archives of Dermatology 126, no. 6 (1990): 770-776.|
|↑3||Kennedy, Cornelis, Rein Willemze, Frank R. de Gruijl, Jan N. Bouwes Bavinck, and Chris D. Bajdik. “The influence of painful sunburns and lifetime sun exposure on the risk of actinic keratoses, seborrheic warts, melanocytic nevi, atypical nevi, and skin cancer.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 120, no. 6 (2003): 1087-1093.|
|↑4||Warren, Raphael, Vladimir Gartstein, Albert M. Kligman, William Montagna, Richard A. Allendorf, and Gregg M. Ridder. “Age, sunlight, and facial skin: a histologic and quantitative study.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 25, no. 5 (1991): 751-760.|
|↑5||Holly, Elizabeth A., Diana A. Aston, Rosemary D. Cress, David K. Ahn, and Jennifer J. Kristiansen. “Cutaneous melanoma in women I. Exposure to sunlight, ability to tan, and other risk factors related to ultraviolet light.” American journal of epidemiology 141, no. 10 (1995): 923-933.|
|↑6||Belkin, M., J. P. Césarini, B. Diffey, M. Hietanen, M. Kojima, G. Mariutti, A. McKinlay et al. “Protection Against Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation.” World Health Organisation; Genf (1995).|
|↑7||Norval, M., and Hans Chr Wulf. “Does chronic sunscreen use reduce vitamin D production to insufficient levels?.” British Journal of Dermatology 161, no. 4 (2009): 732-736.|