A guidebook into everything you need to know about skin tan & sun damage

A guidebook into everything you need to know about skin tan & sun damage

Posted by Shruti Pethkar on

Skin is the largest organ in the human body & it's also one of the most complex ones. The three layers namely the epidermis, dermis & subcutaneous not only house other organs but also help with sensation, thermoregulation & synthesis of Vitamin D. In this blog, we’ll be focusing more on the epidermis, the outer layer which is exposed to UV radiation, pollution & other external factors. But before we dive into the nitty gritty of skin tan, its very important to understand what the epidermis is & how it works, which will make it a whole lot easier to crack the code behind tan-free skin. It’s time to fight the tan with The Skin Rules

What is the Epidermis?
Picture a fruit, that has a thin outer layer that houses the flesh within- the epidermis plays that exact role in the human body. This highly specialized tissue is around 0.1mm thick, it covers our entire body & performs a whole range of bodily functions, all while making you look like the beautiful person you are- yes the epidermis is definitely one of the cool guys!

This outer layer of the skin is responsible for a wide range of bodily functions that range from the prevention of loss of moisture to protecting the body from harmful UV radiation & other external factors such as microbes and toxins. The epidermis mostly comprises of cells known as keratinocytes aka cells that produce keratin, a compound that gives skin strength & durability. These tightly packed keratinocytes are responsible for sealing the skin off & protecting it from external factors. This layer also contains Melanocytes which produce Melanin- a compound responsible for skin pigmentation & UV protection. Its the combination of Keratinocytes, Melanocytes, Langerhans & Merkel cells that gives our skin the ability to feel, protect & nourish.

Here are some facts about Epidermis that you probably didn’t know:

  1. The average thickness of the Epidermis is 0.1mm & it goes up to 1.5mm on our palms & soles.
  2. It takes around four weeks for the skin to renew its outer layer completely & this is a constant process that happens till you die.
  3. Melanin is the compound that’s responsible for the color of your skin. Melanin production increases with continuous exposure to the sun which results in a tan.
  4. The average human being has 21sq ft of skin & about 300 million skin cells!
  5. Your skin sheds around 30,000 dead cells, every minute.

Now that you kind of have an idea about the skin & its layers, it's time to decode sun damage & how it interacts with our skin

What causes our skin to tan?

We’ll keep it simple given that you just read so much about your skin just now. Our skin is on a constant battle with the Ultra Violet radiation from the sun. The skin’s response to UV rays is a compound called Melanin produced by melanocytes in the epidermis.

1. Melanin is produced via a process known as melanogenesis, which begins with the amino acid tyrosine being converted into an intermediate molecule known as dopaquinone.

2. This molecule is then converted into various types of melanin, such as eumelanin (the pigment responsible for brown and black pigmentation) and pheomelanin (which is responsible for red and yellow pigmentation).

3. Increased exposure to UV radiation increases melanin production, causing the skin to darken. This happens primarily because of Melanin’s property of UV radiation absorption which protects us from DNA damage, skin cancer & other deadly diseases.

4. Melanin production is directly linked to protecting our skin from skin burns. Lighter skins lack melanin production as compared to darker skins, resulting in skin burns. Our skin turns darker as a defense mechanism in order to protect us.

Several factors influence the amount and type of melanin produced by melanocytes, including genetics, hormones, and environmental factors such as sun exposure. People with darker skin have more melanin and are therefore better protected from the harmful effects of UV radiation, whereas people with lighter skin are more vulnerable to sun damage.

Your skin is the way it is in order to protect you, there’s absolutely no need for you to fret about skin tone issues. But skin tan is different & if your skin shade varies over your body, it can be repaired & brought back to normal. Identifying the signs of tanning & using products that not only heal but prevent it, can be a stepping stone into a world of healthy, glowing skin for you. Years of research on the skin have given us some proven reasons that cause our skin to tan, they’re as follows:

Exposure to UV radiation
This is one of the main reasons that triggers melanin production which ultimately causes our skin to tan. Hence, the best way to protect your skin from UV rays it to limit exposure to the sun. Using sun-protective clothing like scarf, caps & long-sleeved tops can be helpful. Using sunscreen is a must, given it has an SPF of at least 30.

Hormonal Changes
Our body is a factory of chemicals & sometimes this factory can get out of control. Hormonal imbalances or hormonal changes trigger a wide range of changes in the skin, one of which can be pigmentation.

Our genes are responsible for everything from the way we look, to our body type & even our skin. Genes contain thousands of years of evolutionary data which is why human characteristics vary across continents. When we talk about the Indian subcontinent, people normally have more melanin in their skin due to genetics resulting in a natural tan & increased tendency towards skin-tanning as well.

How can I prevent skin tan?
Well, the most obvious way to limit skin tan is to limit exposure to the sun since its the main culprit when it comes to this issue. However, research has helped us waddle our way into the relationship between the Sun & our skin. Here are some research-backed tips that can help you prevent or get rid of those stubborn tans.

1. UV Protection is a MUST
Melanin production triggers after long exposure to UV rays. Regular usage of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 can lower the effects of UV damage on the skin, in the long term. Apart from this, experts have stated that using protective clothing like a scarf, long-sleeved tops & hats can limit UV exposure and help battle pigmentation.

2. Eat those Fruits & Vegetables!
Fruits & vegetables are natural sources of antioxidants which the body needs to eliminate free radicles within. A diet high in antioxidants can help in preventing skin damage by UV radiation. Moreover, fruits & vegetables also contain skin-brightening compounds that can nourish the skin from within & add a glow to your face.

3. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin healthy and prevents it from drying out, which can make it more susceptible to tanning. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your skin hydrated.

Skin colour does not determine beauty standards & that’s a fact. But skin tan is more of a health risk than a beauty issue. UV radiation is not something to be taken lightly & over exposure to the skin can develop from a simple tan into skin burns, dry skin & chronic illnesses like skin cancer as well. Hence, its imperative to protect your skin just like it protects you. Lastly, love your skin for the way it is, because if you don’t love yourself, who will?

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