While we’re well aware of the dangers associated with too much sun, how many of us actually know what happens to our skin when it burns?
The reddening, swelling and pain of sunburn are actually the symptoms of a reaction to the sun’s UV rays.
The intense energy of UV radiation damages molecules on the skin’s surface, and sparks the synthesis of proteins such as prostaglandins and cytokines.
In turn, these proteins cause the blood vessels to dilate and inflammatory cells to gather at the affected area – this is when you feel the burn!
It usually takes 4-6 hours for these proteins to kick in after the initial UV over-exposure, hence why sunburn can appear long after you’ve been sitting out.
Though the odd patch of sunburn is treatable, the real danger lies in prolonged or regular over-exposure to UV radiation.
In these cases skin cells become so damaged that the body can no longer repair them, and they irreversibly mutate into potentially cancerous cells.
The other, less serious, but sadly more effective sunbathing deterrent is the very real ageing effect of UV radiation.
Astoundingly, sun damage accounts for 90% of premature skin ageing!
Though scientists aren’t completely certain of how this process works, some think that it is due to UV rays’ ability to breakdown collagen.
Collagen naturally depletes with age, and is the substance responsible for maintaining skin strength, firmness and elasticity. The less collagen, the more loose, lined and lacklustre skin appears.
As always our best-advice for protecting the skin is to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 11-3pm, or if you’re out and about to cover-up. A wide-brimmed hat is a girl’s best friend!
It’s also important to ensure your diet and skincare is rich in anti-oxidants, as this will help long term skin health.