We all love being out in the sun, and many of us feel better about ourselves when we have tanned skin. But is there really such a thing as a healthy tan? Here we take a look at the facts about the sun and ageing, and what you can do to prevent sun damaged skin.
How does the sun damage your skin?
Sunlight is important for all of us. Our skin uses the sun’s rays to make Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth, and strengthening the immune system. It is also thought to protect against depression.
There’s no doubt that most of us feel good when we’re out in sunny weather. But too much exposure to the sun can be a bad thing, as being exposed to UV (ultraviolet) rays can cause serious damage to the skin. There are three different types of UV rays:
- UVA. These are the most common UV rays, which cause the skin to age.
- UVB. These are more intense and can cause cell damage and cancer.
- UVC. These are potentially the most harmful, but they can’t reach us as they are blocked by the earth’s ozone layer.
So, what are the effects of UVA and UVB rays?
Ageing of the skin
Many of the signs that we think of as a normal part of ageing are actually the result of sun damaged skin. In fact, 80 percent of skin ageing is thought to be caused by UV rays. Research demonstrates that regular exposure to the sun, such as your face receives, can age the structure of your skin by as much as 20 years, compared to the skin on other parts of your body which aren’t exposed to the sun as often.
This ageing effect occurs when UVA rays penetrate the skin’s top layer, known as the epidermis. These rays then attack the collagen and elastin which make up the supportive structure of the skin. Collagen keeps the skin strong and firm, while elastin gives the skin its ability to bounce back into place after stretching, such as when we smile or frown.
The damage this process does to the skin is known as photo-ageing, and it shows itself in a number of ways, including:
- Sagging skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
As the skin can no longer bounce back as easily when it stretches, instead it sags or creases. Many of the lines and wrinkles we think have occurred naturally as we age are actually sun wrinkles, which could have been avoided by taking better care of our skin.
It’s essential to use a moisturiser containing SPF. Sadly, many of these products contain harsh chemicals which can damage the skin in other ways. However, there are natural alternatives, such as the Vanilla Silk Hydrating Lotion. This contains Black Raspberry, which is a natural SPF and protects the skin against inflammation. It also includes several other completely natural ingredients to combat sun wrinkles and protect the skin from extensive UV damage.
Sun age spots
When our skin is overexposed to UV rays, it produces a dark pigment called melanin as a protection. When we have a suntan, melanin is what we are actually seeing, so it is a sign that our skin cells have been damaged. Whilst this may be coveted by many, it can result in a dull complexion, as well as hyperpigmentation (sun age spots) which we regularly see on older people.
People with fair skin naturally have less melanin, so they are more at risk of sun damage, but it can and does occur in people of all skin types who are overexposed to UV rays without skin protection.
Sunburn is caused when UV rays are able to pass through the outer layers of the skin and penetrate the deeper layers. This process can kill skin cells or cause them serious damage. Sunburn has a number of symptoms including:
People who have been badly sunburned early in life are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer. This, like most of the other effects of sun damaged skin, is not always seen until later in life, so it’s important to be aware of the effects of the sun from a young age.
UV radiation is the biggest cause of skin cancer. This occurs when skin cells are damaged by the sun. The abnormal cells can grow and turn into tumours, which can end up being cancerous. There are three different types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell
- Squamous cell
The first two types are highly treatable if caught early. These account for 95 percent of all skin cancer cases. Melanoma is harder to treat, and causes 75 percent of all deaths from skin cancer, as it can spread to other parts of the body.
Skin cancer is not always easy to spot. Basal cell carcinoma often starts as a small pearly bump on the skin, while squamous cell appears more like a flat, crusty lesion or a red nodule. Melanoma can often look like a normal mole but may look asymmetrical or be different colours in different places.
If a mole changes in appearance or grows, or you are worried about any changes to your skin, you should always see your doctor.
How to protect against sun damaged skin
We all have a degree of sun damage, but by taking the right precautions you can prevent it from being worse than it needs to be. Using an SPF is essential to protect the skin against UV rays. It should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours.
Ideally, an SPF should not cause irritation or skin allergies. However, due to the inclusion of chemical filters, including but not limited to; oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate in the majority of products, frequent sunscreen application raises the concern of unintended and detrimental health effects.
Fortunately there are several naturally occurring SPF laden ingredients which exist in nature, without the inclusion of chemical or artificial elements. Here at Edible Beauty Australia, we are proud to have incorporated these into a range of our natural skincare products:
- No.4. Vanilla Silk Hydrating Lotion - A luxurious lightweight, hydrating moisturiser rich in Black Raspberry, a naturally occuring SPF
Of course, prevention is better than treatment and If possible, avoid going out in the sun when it is at its strongest, between 10am and 4pm. If you have to go out, cover up with clothing as much as you can.
The right skincare routine will also help to mitigate the effects of sun damaged skin. Products made from natural, organic ingredients are the kindest to your skin and do the least damage. You can find out more about natural, edible beauty products and taking care of your skin in our Inside Out Beauty Guide, or contact us for more information.