Summer is very often synonymous with tanning. Many people, during the warm season, crave the “perfect tan” but it must be emphasized that the benefits of sun exposure are less than the damage that UV rays can cause on our skin.
In fact, with prolonged and incorrect exposure, there is a risk of damaging the skin and causing it to age and, in the worst case histories, the onset of melanomas, skin tumors and other skin diseases can occur.
Precisely for this reason, to allow you to fully enjoy the beneficial effects of the sun and to minimize any problems related to it, we give you some useful and practical advice on how to tan in a healthy and conscientious manner:
- Do not exceed the hours of exposure to the sun during the day;
- Choose the right times, or when the rays are not overly strong, preferring the hours of the early morning until 10 and in the evening from 18 onwards, definitely avoiding the early afternoon hours;
- Always use sunscreens suitable for your skin type, with a specific protection factor (SPF) for your skin type and apply them at least every 2-3 hours.
- Pay particular attention to protecting the delicate skin of children: up to the age of six it is advisable to choose a very high protection factor, SPF 50+, for the older ones it is possible to opt for a lower protection band, but it is never prudent to go under at SPF 30+. We advise you to always choose water-resistant sunscreens.
- Improve your tan by taking care of your diet or using supplements for the sun based on beta-carotene, nutrients and vitamins that stimulate the production of melanin. In this sense, yellow / orange fruits and vegetables (eg squash, apricots, peppers, carrots) but also sweet potatoes, cereals, green leafy vegetables (spinach) can be preferred as foods.
To expose yourself to the sun conscientiously, it is essential to choose sunscreens with a protection factor appropriate to your skin type. Precisely for this reason it is essential to know one’s phototype, or the differences relating to the different types of skin that are determined above all by genetic characteristics. It is customary to subdivide the different types of skin into six “skin types”:
Phototype 1: very light skin and easily subject to sunburn. These people are recognized for their blond or red hair, their very clear complexion, their light eyes and the presence of freckles. They redden and burn easily when exposed to the sun, they almost never tan because they have a poor production of melanin. These people should avoid exposure to all UV rays or choose solar with a 50+ protection factor
Phototype 2: light skin and subject to sunburn. Characteristic of people with blond or light brown hair, with freckled skin: they tan lightly but often redden after sun exposure and it is common for them to burn or have rashes. Even for people with this type of skin, the right sunscreens to choose have SPF 50+ or SPF 50; SPF 30 when already tanned.
Phototype 3: medium complexion and less subject to sunburn. Characteristic of people with dark or brown hair, light or dark eyes. They tan visibly after some exposure, they do not redden or burn very easily. For skin type 3, it is necessary to use solar with medium protection, therefore SPF 25 / SPF 20 or SPF 15.
Phototype 4: olive-colored, slightly subject to sunburn. These people have dark hair and an olive complexion, as well as black or dark eyes: they are very rarely burned due to the good presence of melanin in the skin and they tan easily, maintaining the color for a long time. For skin type 4, the most suitable sunscreens are those with low protection: SPF 25 / SPF 20 or SPF 15.
Phototype 5: dark skin, almost never burns. This group includes people with dark hair and dark eyes: their skin is naturally protected from sun exposure and they are naturally tanned. For subjects with skin type 5 low protection is indicated: SPF 10 / SPF 6 will be fine.
Phototype 6: It is a person with black hair and skin and dark or black eyes: they are always tanned and abundantly protected from solar radiation. As for phototype 5, phototype 6 also needs very low protection for sun exposure. Here too, sunscreens with SPF 10 / SPF 6 are the most suitable.
There is also the Phototype 0 which is associated with albinism, the disease characterized by the absence of melanin, it deals with people with completely white skin, white hair and red eyes: they cannot absolutely expose themselves to solar radiation and have many other restrictions .
Watch out for photosensitive drugs
There are many medications that do not go well with the sun and that make the skin much more sensitive to UV damage: these are photosensitive or photosensitising medicines which, with sun exposure, cause an abnormal skin reaction. The latter manifests itself with a photodermatosis (a rash that can manifest itself with spots, redness, itching, rashes or burns) which also occurs at the slightest contact with the sun’s rays.
To avoid such nuisances, we indicate which are the photosensitive drugs:
- Ketoprofen-based drugs, especially patches and gels
- Antibiotics: quinolones, tetracyclines and sulfonamides
- Oral contraceptives: estrogens and progestins
- Antihistamines: promethazine
- Antiarrhythmics: amiodarone, quinidine
- Antidiabetics: glibenclamide, gliclazide
- Antiacne: Isotretinoin and acitretin
- Diuretics (in particular thiazide diuretics)
- Antidepressants and anxiolytics
What are the damages caused by the sun
The skin is the point of contact between the body and the external environment.
It is constantly subjected to inputs that can be positive and negative, and that condition its development and aging. The effects of the sun and artificial UV rays have been extensively studied in recent years and it has been shown that incorrect solar exposure can lead to damage and various diseases, including serious ones.
Especially, UV rays act on the mitochondria, responsible for cellular respiration, present, precisely, in the cells and on the DNA of the nucleus, causing alterations that determine the loss of elasticity of the skin, a lower tonicity and skin atrophy. Let’s see, however, in particular what are the risks we run by spending too much time in the sun without protecting ourselves adequately.
The main risk that derives from an incorrect sun exposure is the photo-aging. We can easily see, even with the naked eye, the difference between the parts of the skin most often exposed to the sun and those less exposed. Beyond, however, of an aesthetic factor, the consequences can be more serious if we have spent too much time under the solar rays throughout the course of life.
Dermatologists identify six different phototypes based on individual characteristics and skin reaction to sun exposure. The first three, milky / reddish skin, very light and fairly clear, are those considered “weak” and that need high protection. Subjects with slightly dark / olive, dark or very dark / black skin can use products with a lighter sunscreen.
There are also other elements that condition the aging of the skin: first the age, in fact it is fundamental to pay attention to the skin condition of children and the elderly; secondly, the lifestyle and type of work for which those who work in the open air are more exposed than those who have a job.
Another risk of incorrect sun exposure is the onset of pigmentary changes. These are changes in the color of the skin, lighter or darker “spots” compared to the natural tone of the skin, which often represent an annoying “defect” for the person affected, although this is primarily a cosmetic problem.
Under the effect of UV rays it can happen that the elastic fibers of the skin degenerate causing the solar elastosis in predisposed subjects. In fact, the consequences are a thinning, a loss of elasticity, an increase in wrinkles, a general dryness and a yellowing of the skin.
Solar keratoses, called scientifically actinic, are skin lesions that can be caused by particularly important sun rays. They appear as adherent yellowish scales, often rough, without other related symptoms, only in some cases cause slight itching. Experts point out that it is fundamental to know how to recognize them because they are considered precancerous lesions.
Some studies, in fact, suggest that epitheliomas, potentially cancerous, but only rarely malignant, may arise from solar keratoses. However, they must be treated and identified in time, before the removal surgery becomes complex.
Changes in blood vessels
Incorrect sun exposure can also impact on the superficial blood vessels of the skin: the alterations can be in a dilatative sense giving rise to telangiectasias or dilated capillaries, or in a vasoconstrictor sense. A further consequence in this sense may be the formation of so-called pseudo-scars, skin imperfections that seem to be completely scarred, but are not the result of a cut, but of an excess of unprotected sun exposure.
The most serious consequence of incorrect sun exposure is skin cancer. Although melanoma represents only 5% of all skin cancers and an early diagnosis allows a complete cure in 95% of cases, it is scientifically confirmed that exposure to UV rays and, specifically, UV-A and UV- B naturally and artificially is one of the causes that cause melanoma.
Cutaneous melanoma is a tumor that derives from the tumor transformation of melanocytes
Melanocytes are part, together with keratinocytes, of the epidermis and have the task of producing melanin, a pigment that protects against the harmful effects of sunlight.
Cutaneous melanoma is quite rare in children and affects mainly around the age of 45-50, although the average age at diagnosis has decreased in recent decades.
The main sign of cutaneous melanoma is the change in the appearance of a mole or the appearance of a new one.
Protecting the skin since childhood is essential to avoid premature skin aging, disorders and serious illnesses. To avoid problems of this type it is essencial to know your phototype and choose a suitable sunscreen.
Reducing the exposure time in the short term is important to avoid painful burns. When exposure is prolonged over the years, serious skin diseases such as Melanoma and alterations in blood vessels can develop.
Paying attention to sun exposure and the changes of the skin, represents a fundamental preventive action.