Sun & Skin: A Little Goes A Long Way

Wednesday, 26 August 2009  |  Admin

Skin Malignancies

Bobbing umbrellas are a common sight on the streets of Beijing and Tokyo in the heat of summer: many Asian women are horrified at the prospect of their skin being darkened by sun action. Conversely many Western women strive to develop a deep healthy summer tan as a key beauty accessory. The problem is that we now know that a tan may look healthy, but repeated tanning from an early age can lead to various forms of skin malignancy including basal cell carcinoma and melanomas. Skin Science Reporter [currently in New Zealand] notes that while basal cell carcinomas account for some 75% of all skin cancers found in NZ, the incidence and mortality rates of malignant melanoma have shown large increases in New Zealand over the past 30 years.

UV Radiation

The main causal factor for the development of melanoma is exposure of the skin to ultra-violet (UV) light.  Some 285 New Zealanders die every year from this sunburn induced disease. As a result of this increased awarenss Kiwis are now taking extraordinary steps to protect their skin from sunburn. UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin.  Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now hink that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.

Importance of Vitamin D

However the same UV rays that can do so much damage to the skin, also help us to synthesise Vitamin D. One result of this heightened awareness of the potential for skin damage from sun burn is that Vitamin D deficiency is now seen as epidemic in New Zealand and Australia with around 50% of adults and children having sub-optimal levels of this very important vitamin. It is made in the skin when UVB rays from direct sunlight shine on it, and cholesterol in the skin is converted to vitamin D. It is also found in some foods. It is thought that the growing incidence of Vitamin D deficiency “Down Under” is because Kiwis and Australians try to avoid the sun due to the risk of skin cancer. Not many people consume sufficient vitamin D for their body’s needs, so most people need some sunlight to boost their vitamin D to the levels required for best health. If we do not produce enough vitamin D by consuming it or being in the sun, our bodies cannot extract calcium from the food we eat, so our bodies then take it from our bones. This is why a lack of vitamin D causes brittle bones and diseases like osteoporosis. Also, medical research has found evidence suggesting that vitamin D has significant protective effects against the development of some cancers.

Daily Sunshine Requirement

So what should we all be doing to keep healthy in our relationship with the sun? “Nanny State” does not seem to provide the usual guidelines that attach to everything from alcohol consumption to daily vitamin doses, but a bit of research reveals that expert opinion puts 10 or 15 minutes exposure [for a fair skinned person] to midday summer sun in tee-shirt and shorts as sufficient to produce approximately 10,000 IU of Vitamin D, well above the level suggested in typical health guidelines for Vitamin D. For darker skinned people more sunshine is required as a deeper colour or even a well developed tan can reduce the skin’s ability to absorb UV rays.

A Balanced Approach to Skin Tone

That age old maxim “a little goes a long way” appears to apply very aptly to the issue of our appetite for sunshine: girls in Asia should lower those umbrellas for a few minutes every day and beach babes be warned - a deep tan today may spell trouble down the years. Be balanced in your approach to sun exposure and you will enjoy healthy looking skin and good overall health. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and it has multiple functions in maintaining your health and well being, so take good care of it. Yin Yang Skincare products are formulated to restore and maintain the delicate bio-chemical balances of the skin: this is the only MUST in keeping your skin healthy and beautiful down the years.