Sunshine and skin

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There’s no denying that sun exposure can be very serious for our skin, links to skin cancer and premature ageing are undeniable; but understanding how to avoid serious damage can help us all enjoy the suns benefits without risking the longterm health of our skin.

The sun emits UV radiation; shorter UVB wavelengths that cause our skin to burn can also suppress the skin’s immune system and damage DNA, whilst the longer UVA wavelengths penetrate deeper and can cause serious damage at a cellular level. Those of us with pale skin and freckles prone to burning rather than tanning are particularly at risk.

The same potentially damaging UVB rays are also essential to helping the body synthesise vitamin D which is essential for good bone health and can support the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system. Exposure to sunlight can reverse the affects of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which many experience during the lower light levels of Autumn and Winter. A lack of sunlight can lead to lower serotonin levels which can negatively impact our mood and state of mind.

It is possible for skin to burn on cloudy days so get into the habit of using sunscreen all year round. Find one that works with your skin type with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply after swimming and sweating, even water-resistant types lose their strength when wet.

Avoid suddenly exposing sensitive winter skin to harsh sun and take care when holidaying not to overexpose. Research suggests that this type of sudden exposure is more damaging than slow and steady sun exposure. It is best to avoid the harsh midday sun from 11-3, if you are outside during this period seek shade, wear a wide brimmed hat and cover up.

If you’re unsure about safe sun exposure then be sure to seek medical advice and avoid sunbeds which use concentrated UV radiation.