Sun Rays: Harmful or Beneficial?
by Natalie Katsman
The argument never stops.
Human skin has special cells, melanocytes. These cells provide natural, built-in sun protection. You can see it in action each time you tan. Melanocytes produce dark brown substance, called melanin, which does not allow sun rays to penetrate deep into the skin layers as it would be damaging. At the same time sun light stimulates cell generation, skin becomes thicker, and therefore more resistant to UV rays. Turns out the sun is actually good for the skin.
Well . . . People with fair skin don't have enough melanin producing cells, their sun protection mechanism is not strong, and these people get sun burns pretty quickly. UV rays have a very strong biological effect, they can damage protein molecules and even alter genetic material causing healthy cells to become malignant. So tanning is bad.
Could say so, but . . . Sun energy is good for health. Increased blood flow to the skin stimulates cell regeneration, helps to fight acne, smooth scars and minor skin imperfections. Sun light is a necessary factor for Vitamin D production. Sun stimulates immune system and makes us feel happier and healthier.
So where is the truth? As always, in the middle.
The human body needs sun, but at the same time it must be protected. To make contacts with sun enjoyable (as they should be), remember:
- The most dangerous sun is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Sun rays penetrate glass windows, so being in the sunny spot inside your house or while driving is just as dangerous as
- Don't be deceived by cold weather or clouds: clouds let UV rays through, and UV radiation is not felt as heat.
- Water won't prevent sunburns as the harmful rays can penetrate water three feet deep.
Wearing sunblock at all times is the best thing you can do for your skin. Apply it 20-30 minutes before going outside so that the lotion absorbs and starts working. People with lighter skin should take extra precautions: wear hats, avoid direct sun exposure, use sunblock with a higher SPF and reapply it more often (remember, your skin does not have a strong sun protection mechanism, so it needs your help).
UV exposure is a major factor of premature skin aging. Sun rays are able to penetrate deep into the skin, dehydrate it and damage collagen tissues. Free radical damage may not stop there. Free radicals, the unstable molecules that appear during sun exposure, can damage healthy cells and lead to cancer.
Skin has a wonderful ability to repair itself and fight off the damage, but it needs proper nutrition to be able to do it effectively.
To help your skin repair itself more successfully, use products that contain antioxidans able to halt the destructive activity of free radicals.
Vitamin C, when applied topically, not only neutralizes free radicals, it boosts skin's ability to repair itself after the sun damage (American Academy of Dermatology, 2002 meeting). It is also shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and help to maintain an even skin tone.
Coenzyme Q10 is another powerful antioxidant. It is found in beef, fish, grains, eggs, beans, and spinach. Human body makes its own CoQ10, but the production declines with age. Coenzyme Q10 has exceptional antioxidant properties. Studies show that it can effectively counteract free radical damage and provide significant protection against UVA-induced depletion of cell membrane. In other words, it will prevent damage to collagen and elastin production and help you avoid wrinkles.
Omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) is essential for healthy looking skin. Some studies suggest that it may inhibit cancer. Fish oil and many plant oils (canola, flaxseed, hemp, soybean) are rich in this acid. In cosmetics it is present either as a constituent of another ingredient (for example: Emu oil) or by itself.
Vitamins E helps to prevent skin dryness and protects against environmental factors and free radical damage. It is used in creams and lotions that relieve skin redness after sun exposure.
So stock up with skin armoring lotions, enjoy your summer and keep your skin safe and beautiful. And if you would like to have a bronze tan all over, get one in a bottle.
Natalie Katsman, (C) Cody Cosmetics Co., 2003
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