Today’s post is going to discuss an obvious risk of spending time in the sunshine… sunburn!
Sunburn (also known as erythema) is red, painful skin that feels hot when you touch it. It is a result of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and usually appears within a few hours of the exposure. Some of the symptoms of sunburn include:
- Pinkness or redness
- Tenderness or pain
- Skin that is warm when you touch it
- Blisters (these can develop hours or days later)
- Severe reactions (fever, nausea, chills and/or rash)
- Peeling skin on sunburned areas a few days after the burn occurs
So, what exactly causes sunburn?
Simply put, when you are exposed to too much UV light, you will get a sunburn.
Digging into this a bit more, we have to talk about melanin. Melanin is the dark pigment in your skin that gives it its’ normal color. Your skin produces more melanin when it is exposed to UV light, causing your skin to be a darker color than it is normally. This is the loved-by-many ‘tan’. While many people love the way they look with a sun-kissed glow, they don’t realize that the purpose of it is not to enhance beauty – it is actually your body’s way of attempting to block UV rays to prevent sunburn and other skin damage. Note the word ‘attempt’ – think of the melanin as a sweater that you wear in the winter. It helps keep you warm, but you still need your jacket to protect you from the cold. People who have fair skin are more likely to sunburn than people with dark skin. This is because they have melanin.
Let’s talk a bit about skin type…
By looking at the above chart, you can see that there are six skin types, all with different amounts of pigment (melanin) in the skin. Knowing that melanin is the skin’s pigment, we can conclude that more melanin is produced in each increasing skin type, causing it to appear darker. While more melanin offers slightly more protection, it is very important to recognize that regardless of your skin type, the sun’s energy penetrates deeply into the skin and can damage DNA of skin cells.
If you’re not sure what skin type you are, here is a link to a helpful quiz from the Canadian Dermatology Association to help you find out!
Check our next post for information on the negative effects of sunburn!