The weather is getting nicer each day and we spend more days in the sun. That is why this week’s beauty talk by our expert Keshia is one not to miss.
I only wear SPF on days that end with y
As crazy as it sounds, the sun is a hugely controversial topic. We all know how dangerous it can be: in 2018, some 3489 people got diagnosed with skin cancer. And despite all the prevention campaigns, the number of diagnoses is still rising.
Still, we rush to the first best garden chair as soon as we see the first rays of sunshine. Especially now that the terraces will hopefully be open again soon. And we think baking and roasting by the pool on vacation is the ultimate in relaxation. Why are we such fans of that tan? And how do we actually tan?
Back to basics
To understand how the sun works, you must first understand how your body works. No worries: I’m not turning this into a lesson in anatomy or overwhelming you with thousands of medical terms. I’m turning something complex into something simple, you know me, right?
Our skin consists of three layers of skin. The top layer of skin, the epidermis, contains melanocytes or pigment cells. As the name might suggest, pigment is produced in these cells. Those granules full of pigment, or melanin, provide the brown (or red) color of the skin. Through branching cells (dendrites), they are passed to the upper surface of the skin layer. It is there where they discolor and give your skin that darker tint.
UVA rays and UVB rays
Did you know that not all sun rays are the same? Natural sunlight consists of two types of ultraviolet radiation: 95% UVA and 5% UVB. They both have a different effect on our skin, and – unfortunately – are both harmful.
UVA radiation has a longer wavelength, so it penetrates deeper into the skin. Even into the second layer of skin where your collagen and elastin is: both important substances to keep your skin supple and strong. Because: damaged collagen and elastin fibers create wrinkles. And that’s not all: UVA rays are the biggest producer of free radicals that (in short) damage your DNA.
UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and stay on the surface. It’s these rays that make you tan, burn and turn red. How? Read on quickly!
Picture this: you’ve had a tough week and decide to take some me-time moment in the sun. You grab a book and start reading. Without sun protection your body wakes up and thinks: time for action, we need to stop that invader!
Your skin starts to produce melanin to protect your healthy cells, shielding them like an umbrella. The longer and more often you are in the sun, the harder they push the defenses and the more melanin and umbrellas are opened. The browner you get, the harder your skin has had to work to block out harmful rays.
So why do we burn so quickly after the first rays of the sun? During the winter months, your body doesn’t need to make as much pigment because there is less sun than during the summer months. You could almost say that your skin goes into a little hibernation. The “umbrellas” close again and the skin’s own protective barrier decreases. Do you then go straight into the sun at the first rays? Then your skin has too little time to immediately open all the umbrellas again: the pigment granules are literally still on their way to the top layer of your epidermis. Your skin can’t protect you enough at that moment, which means you burn faster.
Also your top cells are actually dead skin cells. All of your skin cells have a 28-day cycle. After that, the top dead skin cells flake off and new dead skin cells appear on top. The bad news? Most of the melanin (tanned colour) was in those flaked off dead skin cells. The layers underneath still contain some melanin, but that original brown vacation tan? Yep, that’s gone.
TIP: Scrub your body weekly. This will prevent all the melanin from accumulating in that top layer and then disappearing like snow in the sun.
To tan or not to tan?
The key question you’re probably asking yourself right now. Whatever you do, never, ever, jamais go unprotected into the sun. That short-lived tan can have far-reaching consequences. And skin cancer is really no laughing matter. Be aware that a tan means that your skin had to fight.
The browner you are, the more you have exposed yourself to harmful influences. Compare it to eating two jars of Ben & Jerry’s: it sounds very tempting, but you better not do it. Apply sunscreen regularly and as always, enjoy it in moderation.