All about Sunscreens Suntanning and Sunburns
With the summer coming, also known as the dry season in the Philippines, you might ask yourself how sunscreen works to protect your skin against sunburns.
But, did you know that humans are not the only ones who have evolved in a way that our skin becomes adaptative and get tanned to protect us against sun rays. For example, reptiles have developed their scales not only to protect them against adversities but also to protect their skin against sunburns.
Even underwater, life found a way to protect itself against UVA and UVB like the Mushroom Coral. The mushroom coral strives in the back reef, flat reef, reef slopes, and lagoons. This coral produces a mucus-like liquid when upside down and exposed under the sun. This liquid creates similar protection to a chemical sunscreen under the sun and was used by tribes around the globe for millennia. However, using this method to acquire sunscreen is highly discouraged because the mushroom coral is near extinction.
Sun Protection: Sunscreen and Sunblocks
Despite our adaptive body, we still get sunburned. Getting tanned does not provide absolute protection from the damage the sun can do. Because of that, we produced solutions to avoid more skin damage. Long before the modern sunscreens and sunblocks, early people produced remedies.
Different communities have developed methods for protection against sunburns. In early civilizations, they used plant extracts that cools the skin and protects it.
The earliest records of human-made protection from the sun are from the Egyptians. Their country's condition forced them to develop their own. They used rice, lupine and jasmine extract still used even today. The Greeks also used olive oil as their version of sunblocks.
Communities from Asia, like the Bajau, have used their knowledge on marine resources. They created a mixture made from seaweeds or water weeds, rice, and spices.
History of the sun tanning: How Coco Chanel changed sun tanning
In the past, people considered pale skin as a sign of nobility while bronze skin as a sign of poverty. The dark skin color meant hard work in the field under the sun, and light skin tone shows a life of leisure indoors.
In European and Western history, people sought light complexion. The Romans used chalks to lighten their faces. English women during the Elizabeth I era used lead-based white paints. They painted their face to get that porcelain-like pale complexion.
But history changed when tuberculosis, depression, and even madness were treated using sunlight. In 1855, Arnold Rikli, dubbed as the sun-doctor, made exposure to sun acceptable.
In 1891, John Harvey Kellogg made use of the sun's ray in his "incandescent light bath." King Edward VII had Kellogg's invention installed in the Buckingham Palace for his gout, a type of arthritis.
In 1903, Niels Finsen also started the use of phototherapy as a treatment to skin ulcers. He won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of this treatment.
The fair complexion idea finally turned around when Coco Chanel, the famous brand, popularized tanning during the 1920s. Since then, tanning became a fashion statement, and people wanted their skin to be tanned. Tanning salons became famous all over Europe and America.
Sun Tanning and Sunburns, how does it works
The skin serves as protection for our internal organs and excretes sweat, cooling us down. But we are vulnerable to damaging this organ because of the sun's rays cause tanning and sunburns.
Getting tanned is the body's defense against any damage from solar radiation. When ultraviolet rays enter our skin, it kills our cells. In response, our cells called melanocytes produce two types of melanin that absorb the radiation. The two types of melanin are the Pheomelanin that shows red pigments and Eumelanin that shows dark brown pigments.
Your complexion shows how much your skin has adapted to the solar radiation present in your environment. With a darker skin color, your body can better withstand the damage of ultraviolet rays longer than a lighter tone. It is because darker pigments protect better and absorb more radiation like how black clothes absorb more heat than white ones (link).
Fair-skinned people will also develop darker complexion. Although slow, melanocytes in lighter skinned person will also produce Eumelanin (melanin with darker pigments). Prolonged exposure under the sun will force your body to create more pheomelanin and eumelanin.
But this is true only in countries with more ultraviolet radiation exposure such as those near the equator. Having darker skin in areas with less sunlight like those near the polar regions can also cause vitamin D deficiency.
Ultraviolet Light: the ups and downs
Sunlight produces different radiations, but the ozone layer filters most of the dangerous ones. The only harmful rays that reach us are the Ultraviolet rays (UV), which are Ultraviolet A (UVA), Ultraviolet B (UVB). Just to let you know Ultraviolet C (UVC) does not reach us as they are blocked by the ozone layer.
UVA rays are less harmful lights. It becomes dangerous because it is present throughout the day.
UVB rays are responsible for most of the damage caused to our skin. Too much UVB causes sunburns more than UVA because UVA penetrates deeper than UVB. But UVB does get through the skin surface and damage these part extensively. The skin surface is what peels off when you get sunburn.
Despite that, UVB rays are also responsible for the production of vitamin D in our body. Meaning, we also need moderate UVB exposure; too much of it will result in sunburns and suntans.
The best time to be under the sun for producing vitamin D is from early morning to mid-morning or from mid-afternoon to late afternoon. In this way, the sun will not face you directly but will pass through a thicker ozone layer/atmosphere to your inclined position.
How does sunscreen work?
You most likely have experienced getting sunburns and suntans. And you've most likely used sunscreens and sunblocks before staying under the sun. You may even have asked yourself how it works.
With people who do more outdoor activities, getting under the sun is unavoidable. It means that we are vulnerable to getting sunburns. Sunscreen gives the protection needed against both the UV radiation by stopping this direct contact.
Sunscreens contain UV filters that allow longer wavelength rays to pass through. UVA and UVB have a different frequency. UVA passes through some sunscreen because it has a wavelength of 315 to 400 nm which means that it is longer than UVB which has a shorter wavelength (280-315 nm).
Best Sunscreen for you and the environment!
Is there a good sunscreen for your skin? Or for the environment? Or for both?
We are now more aware of how sun exposure affects us. Heat strokes, sunburns, and even cancer became known as a side effect of prolonged sun exposure, especially during summer. Using sunscreen and sunblock became very popular.
Although there is a trend of sun tanning, people still want to protect themselves from sunburns. Sunscreens are developed continuously to be more effective and less harmful to ourselves and the environment. But even so, most sunscreen products are damaging our body, and most are a pollutant to the environment. These sunscreens contain chemicals that get absorbed by the corals. It would prevent the corals from growing and reproducing and will lead to bleaching. It would affect the fishes by killing their habitats.
Some companies have made their product more friendly to the environment by using more environment-friendly ingredients. Everyone should support products that do not damage the ecosystem. It is for people to enjoy the sun as well as the beach and the water without hurting marine life. Here at Scotty's Action Sports Network, we encourage the use of sunscreen with natural ingredients and prohibit chemical sunscreens.
Sunburn treatment: How to heal sunburn faster?
Last but not least, it's about useful tips to heal sunburns faster.
So Here is a list you can do to get rid of sunburns fast that we have tried that works!
- Use water-based emulsions over the affected area like Biafine. These ointments heal sunburn by hydrating the skin.
- Also you can use lotions with aloe vera as ingredients. Aloe vera has a natural cooling effect.
- Take cold baths and showers. The coolness eases the pain of the affected area.
- Drink lots of water. Getting sunburned also meant dehydration of your skin. Drinking water more often than usual can help you heal faster.
After getting sunburned, avoid being under the sun. It would cause you to dehydrate faster and would slow your healing process down.
But the best way is to avoid getting sunburned. Preventing it is better than curing it.
Sunscreen Suntanning and Sunburns Researches and References
If you want to know more about Sunscreens, suntan and sunburns, take a look at some of our references below.
- Endangered mushroom coral
- Animals get sunburned
- Do animals get sunburned?
- Sun Tanning
- Tanning fun facts
- Tale of sun tanning
- History of Tanning
Speaking about Suntanning, do you know that at Scotty's we ONLY have sunscreens which are certified 100% safe for the environment and the reef.
Last, but not Least
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The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.
Disclaimer: The views, ideas, and opinions expressed by the writers of Scotty's Media team do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, ideas, and opinions of the company, Scotty's Action Sports Network, Inc.