SUN PROTECTION – PART 1 : UNDERSTANDING THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF SUNSHINE
Much is said about sunshine, it’s benefits, and adversely – the ill-effects of it.
Is it good for you, and if so then how much? What about the not so good parts of it? How can one protect themselves from the harmful effects of the rays of the sun? Does one really need to wear sunscreen? Why does our skin tan? How should one deal with sun damage? The list only gets longer…..
But in order to truly take the best steps for your skincare and health, understanding sunlight, sun damage, and the multiple ways in which you can shield yourself from the harm is a must do.
This summer, Dr. Rashmi Shetty brings to you a special four part series, to break through all the clutter of information out there that can overwhelm you.
We address all the frequently asked questions, and eventually throw light upon how to understand the multiple terms used on your sun defence products.
So let’s begin this 101 by deeply understanding sunlight itself.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF SUNLIGHT?
Sunlight consists of the following three major elements:
1) Visible Light :
which accounts for 50% of the spectrum of sunlight, and is the only aspect of it that is visible to the human eye. This is not considered to be harmful, but people with pigmentation such as melasma are more sensitive to this light.
2) Ultraviolet Light
– Invisible to the human eye, this further consists of three types of UV rays. Namely:
– UVA rays: These penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, and cause DNA damage, accelerated ageing, as well as the increased risk of skin cancer.
– UVB rays: These penetrate the superficial layers of the skin, and are the main cause for burns, tanning, etc.
– UVC rays: The most highly harmful form of ultraviolet light, which fortunately gets absorbed by the ozone layer that protects us from it.
*Read further for more details on the effects of ultraviolet light*
3) Infrared Light
Also invisible to the human eye, this form of the sunlight is what causes the feeling of heat and burning or inflammation on the skin.
THE GOOD PART OF SUNLIGHT
A little bit of the gentle and warm sunshine is actually important for the body!
It is the key factor for your body to be able to produce the required Vitamin D for itself. It also boosts your happy hormone called serotonin in the morning, along with releasing cortisol. This kickstarts the circadian rhythm of the body – which regulates the hormones, our moods, sleep cycles, and ability to stay alert through the day.
Did you know that the light and dark cycle has an extremely powerful effect on our body and even our mental health?
Our bodies are actually designed to regulate themselves according to the rising and the setting of the sun, and sunlight itself has it’s goodness too.
No wonder the age old belief -“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise!”
THE NOT SO GOOD PART OF IT: SUN DAMAGE TO THE SKIN AND BODY
While considering the good side of this natural daily phenomenon, there is also ironically a dark side to bright sunshine. This mainly includes accelerated ageing and the risk of skin cancer as external and internal damages respectively. When we speak about the types of harmful radiation from sunlight in terms of the ones that cause skin damage, it is UV radiation – which consists of UVA and UVB rays primarily.
UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin layer known as the dermis, while the UVB rays affect more of the surface of the skin known as the epidermis and is known to be the main source of skin cancer. They both are extremely detrimental to the DNA of your skin cells, leading to your body health being compromised both externally and internally.
External Sun Damage: Sun exposure and ultraviolet radiation do not just tamper with the DNA of your skin cells, but physically cause:
– Glycation and destruction of collagen
– Hardening of elastin known as solar elastosis
- De-hydration which affects the ground substances of the skin
All of these together leave the skin looking parched, darkened, and in some cases even harden the outer barrier leaving the skin to look leathery and dull. This then accelerates the ageing of the skin.
Internal Sun Damage: At a molecular level, a lot of chemical reactions take place in the body when it faces the presence of ultraviolet radiation. This is better known as ‘free radical damage’ and can trigger inflammation and redness, along with dermatitis.
*Read further to learn more about free radical damage* Therefore, the combination of DNA damage, disruption of skin elements like collagen and elastin, and free radical damage are responsible for faster skin ageing along with increased risks of skin cancer.
WHAT IS FREE RADICAL DAMAGE?
Free radicals are a type of unstable molecule present in the body. In excess, these molecules start interacting with other molecules of the body in a manner which interferes with the cell DNA. Simply put, this is called free radical damage, and is increased in the presence of ultraviolet radiation.
Ultraviolet radiation causes a chemical reaction in the body, where Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS is released. This in turn triggers an increased oxidative stress on the body. Anti-oxidants are essential in fighting this stress, but when the oxidative stress is higher than the ability of your body to fight it, the result is free radical damage and eventually inflammation.
Inflammations can also be triggered by friction, cold or extreme weather, and other infections. The protective cells of the skin come closer, making the skin appear red in colour. This is the amazing way in which your body protects itself, and therefore it is important for you to protect your body too from these factors.
So now that you have understood the pros and cons of this massive element of nature that influences our lives, stay tuned to our next blog. In part 2 of this series, we give you the lowdown on how to take good internal and external care of yourself when it comes to sun protection on a daily basis.
Each article is written by Aastha Kottary after detailed discussions and notes from Dr. Shetty
Dr. Rashmi Shetty
Mumbai | Hyderabad
Dr. Rashmi Shetty is a celebrity dermatologist, industry pioneer, author , globally invited teaching faculty and a leading expert in aesthetic medicine having over 20 years of experience in aesthetic and clinical dermatology. She is the Founder and chief dermatologist at Ra Skin and Aesthetics in Mumbai and Hyderabad. She is named the best Dermatologist by Vogue 2020 and is the first Indian doctor on the International Advisory board of the Anti-Ageing World Congress, FACE London, ICAD Asia, and honorary faculty at UCL .
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