We get it, you live in SA so that makes you an expert on sun safety, right? You’ve heard that UV rays penetrate water for up to half a meter and that cloudy, overcast days only shield up to 10% of the sun’s damaging UV rays. If however, this is news to you, carry on reading – in Part 2 of our sun series, we get down to the nitty gritty of tanning, burning and caring for your skin.
You’ve probably heard people mention how “healthy” so-and-so’s glowing tan looks after a holiday in Greece, right? Ever agreed? We hope not! Part 1 of our Save Your Skin series showed just how easily the sun can age us, but have you ever wondered how much damage your seasonal tan does?
When we spend time in the sun, our skin produces melanin (this is the pigment that gives you a tan). Technically, a tan is your body’s way of preventing UV rays from damaging your skin. The more melanin your skin can produce, the more you’ll be protected. Sound good? Not really, because although our bodies try to protect us, a tan (of any sort) means that damage has already been done. Once you have a tan, you can’t rely on it to prevent further sun damage either. Scientists reckon having a tan is the equivalent of wearing a mere SPF 4 sunscreen!
Age doesn’t only show on your face; sun tanning while you’re young (and even as you grow older) could lead to that lovely leather look. And what about sunburn? When we’re overexposed to the sun, UV rays penetrate deep into the layers of our skin, killing living skin cells. Our bodies increase blood flow to the affected areas, and that’s why sunburnt skin feels warm and turns red. Rubies, no matter how much you love that summery glow, it’s just not worth it. Sunburn can lead to DNA damage and cause skin cancer. And don’t think it’s only the fair-skinned who are at risk. Darker skins may produce more melanin, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to sun damage. They might not show it straight away, but they suffer just as much damage in the long-run as lighter skins do.
As if that’s not enough, the sun can also cause cataracts and retinal damage, so make sure you always wear your sunnies when you go outside. Check that yours filter UV rays, and if you can, buy Polaroid lenses for extra protection.