Top 4 Summer Care Concerns - Part 1
3 Years Ago | By Apricot Power
What is a sunburn actually? Why and how do we get them?For some people, sunburns and summer are almost synonymous. In fact, that infamous first sunburn sort of christens the beginning of the season for them. But the truth is, sunburns have nothing to do with the heat or the season - you absolutely can get sunburned during the winter even through cloud cover. The reason this doesn’t happen more often is that the cold weather inherently causes us to bundle up, thereby protecting our skin from UV rays which are the true culprit. In reality, the redness and warmth characteristic of sunburns are a direct result of UV rays triggering inflammation: the blood vessels on the surface of the skin dilate, increasing the circulation in an effort to deal with cellular damage.2 While inflammation does play an important role in our bodies’ immune response by bringing extra red and white blood cells to the affected area to combat foreign contaminants and deal with dead or damaged cells, it also serves as an alert that something is wrong and needs to be stopped or corrected.7 Ignoring this warning can result in prolonged inflammation which has its own negative effects.
How do you protect yourself from getting a sunburn?Just put some sunscreen on and there won’t be any need to worry about sunburn damage, right? Well, no not really. There are actually some extremely important differences between “sunscreen” and “sunblock” even though the two terms are commonly used interchangeably. For one thing, Sunscreens function by chemically absorbing UV radiation, whereas sunblocks contain minerals which act as a shield to physically reflect or “block” UV radiation.8 (An easy way to remember this is that screens filter, but blocks shield.) Secondly, in many cases sunscreens only absorb ONE type of UV radiation, typically UVB rays which are considered to be responsible for the majority of the actual sunburn response, unlike sunblocks which block both types of radiation.2 While “broad spectrum” sunscreens which absorb both UVA and UVB are becoming more common, this still something to keep in mind if you must use sunscreen.3 Whenever possible, however, it is better to use actual sunblock to provide the most protection to your skin. Also, studies have shown that sunblocks which have Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient are the most effective so be sure to check the label.6
How do you take care of a sunburn?While prevention is always the best course of action, sometimes life happens and you end up with a sunburn despite your best intentions and efforts. So what can you do to promote healing and soothe a sunburn? Here are a few ideas:
- Apply aloe vera to the affected area as soon as you can and continue to re-apply periodically. It is the often praised hero of sunburn sufferers for good reason; aloe works by directly counteracting the inflammatory response as well as UV-Inflicted immunosuppression and by moisturizing the skin to minimize peeling.9 By the way, our B17 Sunblock actually contains aloe vera so if you use that you are already one step ahead of the game just in case you accidentally go too long between applications - bonus!
- Steep several black tea bags in hot water, add ice and allow both the bags and water to cool to at least room temperature (lukewarm at the very most). Apply the tea bags and pour the cooled tea over the affected areas. Do not rinse. Black tea contains tannins which are also considered to be anti-inflammatory. 4
- Mix one part plain yogurt with four parts water, apply the mixture to the affected areas with a damp cloth, leave on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse. This can be done every two to four hours. The high concentrations of probiotics and enzymes likewise have a similar anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.4,5
#2 TanningOne common condolence heard after experiencing a sunburn is “At least you will have a great tan once it heals.” Tanning is normally chalked up as a highly desired benefit of sun exposure, often a proud advertisement that a person was on vacation. It has become a symbol of beauty and success (the implication being that you have leisure time and money to spend getting that sun-kissed hue). Despite this glamorous association current culture has developed around it, the appearance of a tan is actually your skin’s attempt to protect itself from further damage the next time you catch some rays - it is evidence that your skin was harmed by UV radiation.1
How do you get a tan?UV radiation stimulates the activity of melanocyte cells and tyrosinase enzymes which work together to produce more melanin (the pigment responsible for skin tone and which is used by your body as a natural protection against UV) over the next few days. Once produced, melanin is absorbed by nearby keratinocyte cells which experience increased reproduction as a result of UV exposure. Because these heightened melanin levels are triggered as part of a protective response, the tan gradually fades as your body slowly returns to its normal levels which vary depending on your natural skin tone.1 While the increased amount of melatonin does contribute some small protection against UV it is not nearly enough to completely protect you.2
What are the long-term effects of tanning?Even if you are able to manage your sun exposure in such a way as to tan but not burn, there can still be unseen long term effects. Over time, elastin and collagen can begin to break down as a result of repeated UV contact, particularly UVA, which can lead to premature aging and leathery skin.2 This is a cumulative process though, so there is no need to dismay if you have had the occasional sunburn or tan. While you can’t necessarily reverse all effects of previous exposure, seen and unseen, taking steps to prevent further damage is always beneficial and can make a significant long-term impact.
Can you get a tan even if you are using sunblock?Strictly speaking, no. Because sunblocks physically shield the skin from contact with UV radiation, tanning as well as sunburn and any other damage should be prevented. This, of course, depends upon proper application and re-application. While it can be possible to get a tan while using sunscreen, depending on which types of UV it screens, don’t let this deter you from using a sunblock to get maximum protection. Be sure to check out part 2 to find out how freckles and, of course, Vitamin D play into all of this!
- *D'Orazio, J., Jarrett, S., Amaro-Ortiz, A. and Scott, T. (2013). UV Radiation and the Skin. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 14(6), pp.12222-12248.
- * Enhs.umn.edu. (2003). UV:harmful effects. [online] Available at: http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/uv/harmful.html [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].
- *Faceforum.com. (2010). Sun Block vs. Sun Screen--Which is Better for You?. [online] Available at: http://www.faceforum.com/media/news/articles.aspx?ArticleId=6 [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].
- *Griffiths, J. and Griffiths, J. (2018). How to heal your sunburn with TEA BAGS and other tips. [online] The Sun. Available at: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/3664761/heal-sunburn-tips-life-hack-teabag-remedy/ [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].
- *Hoff, V. (2015). Should You Put Yogurt on Your Face?. [online] ELLE. Available at: https://www.elle.com/beauty/makeup-skin-care/news/a28228/bacteria-probiotics-skincare/ [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].
- *Issa, S., Mostafa, A. and Auda, S. (2018). Radio-protective properties of some sunblock agents against ionizing radiation. Progress in Nuclear Energy, 107, pp.184-192.
- * Mayer, D. and Bhikha, P. (2013). Nature and Role of Inflammation – Benefits and Drawbacks. [ebook] Tibb: A Science of Medicine. The Art of Care. Available at: https://tibb.co.za/articles/Part-2-Nature-and-role-of-inflammation-benefits-and-drawbacks.pdf [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].
- *Murphy, G. (1999). Sunblocks: Mechanisms of action. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 15(1), pp.34-36.
- *Patterson, S. (2017). 3 Ways To Use Aloe Vera To Heal A Sunburn Fast. [online] Natural Living Ideas. Available at: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/aloe-vera-for-sunburn/ [Accessed 6 Jul. 2018].