When girls suddenly go gaga over getting their feet on the sand and feeling the sun on their skin, you just know it’s already summertime. It is the season when the beaches are surrounded by bodies bathing or just lying under the sun. All of a sudden, people find themselves looking and feeling healthier with a natural glowing tan.
While sun tanning makes a lot of people feel sexier and more attractive, the truth is that prolonged basking under the sun is dangerous. Tanning, the process of making the skin complexion darker, is due to the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Our bodies do need UV rays to stimulate the production of vitamin D to fight bone illnesses, but just a little amount of sunlight is sufficient to provide the vitamin D requirement. Too much time spent under the sun will already harm the skin.
What suntan lovers should know is that tanning is an injury response from the skin cells. The darkening of the skin is a way to protect the body from too much harmful UV rays. It is a result of the activity of melanocytes, the cells found in the epidermis, to produce melanin, the pigment found in every person’s skin, hair and eyes. When the skin is activated by exposure to UV rays, the melanocytes start producing melanin in order to take up the harmful rays. Hence, the more a person is exposed to UV rays, the more melanin is produced, and the darker the skin color gets.
When the skin is exposed to the UV rays for too long, the skin eventually turns red or becomes irritated, producing a sunburn. Other sunburn symptoms include general fatigue, mild dizziness, and nausea.
Moreover, the skin may be harmed permanently if it does not make a sufficient amount of melanin. The sunlight may affect the melanocytes’ DNA, and when the body is not able to repair this damage, the normal cells may transform into cancer cells. This leads the melanocytes to rapidly multiply and form malignant tumors.
Aside from sunburn and skin cancer, the damage from too much sun exposure can also cause premature skin aging, most often manifested by wrinkling. The exposure to UV rays speeds up the skin’s natural aging process, which is the main reason for premature wrinkling. This is because the UV breaks down the collagen and elastin fibers, which are the connective tissues of the skin located in the dermis. When these are lost, the skin also loses its flexibility and strength, making the skin sag and wrinkle.
Other harmful effects include the depressing of the body’s immune system function, making the person more vulnerable to illnesses, and increased risk for accelerated aging.
To protect oneself from the dangers of sun exposure, doctors advice that people avoid unprotected exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM, during which the UV rays are strongest. Sunscreen application is also advised, and should have SPF of 15, the least, and should protect the skin from both UVB and UVA rays. One should also wear clothing or accessories that protect you such as hats and sunglasses.
Be sure to protect the skin at all times, because that “healthy summer tan” look ain’t healthy after all.