Want to know what the sun is really doing to our skin, and whether we can reverse the damage? Tracey Beeby, Ultraceuticals Global Education ambassador, talks to us about what the sun is doing to our skin.
What happens to our skin when we’ve had too much sun exposure?
Over exposure to the sun induces free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules) in our skin that damage vital structures on the skin’s surface and within, affecting the supporting network in the lower layers. These free radicals also trigger the production of melanin pigment from cells called melanocytes as a means to protect themselves. Over time, as melanocytes become damaged from sun exposure, their pigment production becomes patchy resulting in dark spots and generally mottled pigmentation. Due to the weakening of the supporting network, blood vessels may dilate and become visible on the surface of the skin. Superficially the skin becomes weak due to free radical damage that also may lead to excess water loss, so dehydration and irritation could occur.
How much sun should we really be getting over summer?
We should never be exposed to the sun without the appropriate sun protection. As to the amount of time an individual should be exposed would vary from person to person. This is measured by what is referred to as the MED, minimal erythemic dose, which is a measure of how long your sunscreen will last. So if it would take you 5 minutes to burn, an SPF of 30 will last you for approximately 150 minutes while an SPF 50+ will give 250 minutes of protection. Following this time, you need to cover up. Even reapplication will not work as your skin has had its full daily dose.
I’ve spent a little too long in the sun. Is there anything I can do to reduce the damage I’ve done to my skin?
Sun exposure causes DNA damage to skin cells, some of which is irreversible. Depending on the age of the individual, the skin may gradually return to its original state over months however as the sun causes DNA damage to the cells some of it will be irreversible. Ongoing measures must be taken to protect and maintain it. Correction of sun damage could be achieved to some degree, using cosmeceutical products and treatments, however, again depending on the age and extent of the damage.