What Happens To Your Skin When You Don't Wear Sunscreen?


With summer on the horizon; we thought we’d share some sun and skin history and safety with you. Back in the ‘60s, the cool thing to do was to lay out in the sun all day. Most of you will cringe at the thought of this, and thankfully so, with the developments of science over the last decades, we now know that sunscreen is a vital part of keeping our skin healthy.

You may have a busy summer planned, and we know just how hectic it can be to get the car (and maybe the kids) packed up and off to the beach, the park or other outdoor activities. With everything happening at once, you may forget the sunscreen… By the time you notice you may think you’re too far to retrace your steps home or the nearest drugstore is too far out of the way. You think “What’s the worst that can happen?"

We’re going to answer exactly that question.

Why Is Sunscreen So Important?

It’s easy to downplay the importance of sunscreen, especially when you’re in a rush. Excuses like “It’s cloudy, I don’t need it”, “ I won’t be out in the sun for too long”, or “I already have my clothes on” can become famous last words - next thing you know, you look like a lobster at a clambake.

The fact of the matter is, ultraviolet rays are invisible yet dangerous. While every body does need a healthy dose of Vitamin D, very little sun exposure is necessary to get your body what it needs. Dermatologists everywhere recommend keeping sun exposure to a minimum.

Wherever possible, staying in the shade or wearing long sleeves and hats are both great ways to keep your skin protected, however, we know that’s not always possible. That’s where taking precautions like wearing sunblock can help prevent damages caused by ultraviolet rays when you are exposed.

Studies Show the Benefits of Using Sunscreen Regularly

A 2013 study concluded that the daily dedicated application of sunscreen could slow, or temporarily prevent, the development of wrinkles and sagging skin.

The study involved 900 Caucasian people in Australia who tested and applied several different types of sunscreen every day for four and a half years.

The results proved that in comparison to those who did not use sunscreen diligently, those who did had noticeably smoother and more resilient skin.

Ultraviolet Rays and SPF

There are three kinds of ultraviolet rays, A, B and C. Since UVC rays are completely blocked by the earth’s ozone layer, there is no cause for concern. UVB rays are the culprit behind those awful sunburns, and long-term exposure is linked to both skin cancer and premature aging.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating system that measures the amount of the time it would take your skin to burn if you were not wearing sunscreen as opposed to the time it would take with sunscreen on. SPF refers to the ability of a sunscreen to block UVB rays. It does not refer to the ability to block UVA rays, which are more closely linked to deeper skin damage.

UVA rays easily pass through the ozone to penetrate through the glass in your home, car, and office. They are everywhere, and unlike UVB rays, these rays are longer and penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin's thickest layer. Unprotected sun exposure leads to premature skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), and suppression of the immune system.

To protect against harmful UVA rays, look for a waterproof sunscreen that says "Broad Exposure" to ensure you are getting protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Find out more about SPF and other ingredients in your sunscreen here: Sunscreen: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Keep in mind that just because you didn't get a tan or sunburn, doesn’t mean that your skin isn't receiving damage from daily exposure over the long term. It is wise to take preventative measures early on. The best way to stay protected is to reapply sunscreen as directed, to make sure the outer layer of your skin is always protected.

Kinds Of Skin Damage Caused By The Sun

Dryness and dehydration

If you spend too much time in the sun without protection, the heat will dry out your skin and eventually lose moisture and hydration, reducing the natural oils your skin produces. This means you’ll have drier, flakier skin and your body will crave replenishment.

Sunspots

Sunspots, or age spots, are damaged parts of the skin that look darker next to its surroundings. They are a result of excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its color and is produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Sunspots are the result excess sun exposure over a period of time, and they often speed up the effects of aging.

Sunburn

A Sunburn is your body’s immediate reaction to too much sun. UV rays have caused damage to the top layer of your skin. Sensing something is wrong, your skin produces inflammatory compounds to protect the cells in the same way other bodily tissues respond to pain, injury or stress. These chemicals irritate the tiny blood vessels found throughout the skin, which swell and produce the telltale redness of sunburn.

Increased Signs Of Aging

Too much sun on unprotected skin can cause irreversible damage to your skin’s collagen and connective tissues, meaning your skin will lose its elasticity over time. Symptoms of collagen changes include fine lines, deeper wrinkles, a thickened skin texture and easy bruising on sun-exposed areas, especially the back of the hands and forearms.

Risk Of Skin Cancer

Years of neglect to your skin can put you at large risk as both UVA and UVB rays play a role in the development of skin cancer.

If you have light hair, eyes, and fair skin you’re also at a higher risk. It’s best to make sure you protect yourself with sunscreen and check your skin regularly for new marks, moles, or patches of irritated skin.

Some of the top areas of sun-related skin cancer are the tops of the ears and the bridge of the nose. These are important to include these in your daily skincare routine.

Cancer Prevention

The American Cancer Society, along with other prominent medical organizations, recommend using sunscreen because it helps prevent squamous cell carcinomas and other dangerous skin conditions.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells that come from the squamous cells. These cells are made up of most of the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis).

SCCs usually look like scaly red patches, open sores, large growths with a depression in the center, or even warts. They may also be crusty or bleed. If allowed to grow untreated, they may become disfiguring or sometimes even deadly.

Many sunscreens don’t block UVA rays. This light doesn’t usually cause sunburn, but can increase the rates of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, as well as photodermatitis, also known as sun poisoning, an allergic reaction to the sun. These skin conditions can be prevented with the diligent use of a broad-spectrum of sunscreens including, UVA and UVB sunscreens.

How Sunscreen Can Protect Your Skin

Sunscreens contain ingredients that block a number of the UV rays that enter your skin at a given time. To better protect your skin, it’s best to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you’re out in the sun, so the ingredients have time to absorb into the skin and form a protective layer.

It’s smart to apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Check what level of SPF you’re using so you know how long you should wait to reapply. If you’re fair skinned, it’s best to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Set up an umbrella, snag a stylish hat. Share your good sun protection habits with your children, and let them learn from your positive examples.

Don’t let summer fool you. We may feel the heat the most during that time, but the sun can also damage your skin when it’s cloudy, overcast, and even when it’s snowing. You’ll notice many over-the-counter moisturizers have some amount of sunscreen in them for this reason. The sun can still harm your skin when you're indoors or driving a car. Sun exposure in any form will put you at risk.

Be safe and protect yourself,

The BioElementis Team


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