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The sun: its benefits and harmful effects

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Sun is essential to life and affords real benefits. However, you must make sparing use of them because UV rays have harmful effects on skin's health: To manage them and better enjoy the sun's benefits, it is particularly crucial to use a sun protection product with a high index factor.

Symptoms

The right amount of sun

The sun is essential to life. In small doses, it has a beneficial impact on:

  • Mood: The sun can be an excellent remedy for certain forms of seasonal depression.
  • Vitamin D synthesis, which is indispensable to fix calcium in our bones. To enjoy these benefits, 15 minutes of sun exposure per day suffice. 
In strong doses, however, the sun can also be very dangerous and cause, in the short term:
  • Sunburn, also called sun erythema
  • Photodermatitis, such as benign summer light eruption (10% of the adult population is affected) and acne, as well as rarer types of photodermatitis like lupus and light-induced urticaria
  • Pigmentation disorders like spots, melasma (pregnancy mask) or vitiligo
  • Photo-immunosuppression (herpes labialis)
  • Photosensitivity
Harmful effects also appear on the long term
  • Accelerated skin ageing, which is indicated by the appearance of spots, a yellowish complexion, deep wrinkles and loss of skin density and elasticity
  • Photocarcinogenesis (skin cancer)

Origins

UV : culprits

The harmful effects of sun on the skin are primarily caused by UV rays: UVB rays (B as in "burn" or "bronzed skin") stimulate tanning in particular, but are also the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays (A as in "allergies" or "ageing"), which are more insidious because they cause no pain and penetrate more deeply into the skin. They accelerate skin ageing and can cause sun intolerance, commonly referred to as sun allergies and pigmentation disorders (melasma, spots). UVB and UVA radiation can also cause alterations at the core of our cells and damage their DNA. If this invisible damage is repeated, they can, in the long term, lead to development of skin cancers

Treatments

Protection above all else

There are rules to follow in the sun:

  • Seek out the shade and avoid exposure during hours of peak sunlight
  • Do not expose babies and young children to direct sun
  • Protect yourself and children with a hat, sunglasses and a tee shirt
  • Choose an appropriate protection level for your skin type.
  • Apply the sun protection product right before exposure in sufficient quantities. Reapply generously and frequently, especially after swimming, perspiring or towelling off.
Also good to know: certain foods help improve our sun resistance. Certain natural molecules such as carotenoids, the vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables and vitamin E contribute to photoprotection. They do not under any circumstances replace good sun protection products when exposed to the sun.

For more information, don’t hesitate to consult a dermatologist.

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