Sun exposure and skin cancer

Sun exposure and skincare

History behind after-sun exposure and skin cancer

From Egyptians to Greeks, in ancient times, sun was a symbol of Divinity and from ancient  physicians to athletes sun exposure represented a way of healing of the body.

Tanning plays a significant role in the way skin looks like and almost always brings feelings of joy and increased overall well being. More recently, a research have been shown that tanning is linked to release of endorphins ( hormones of happiness) reason why some people become addicted.

Tanning, in fact is a defence mechanisms of the body against ultraviolet light, to prevent further damage. When colour of the skin becomes darker it has a better UV absorption to prevent cells DNA damage. Our body is amazing!

In ancient times was known the fact that sun exposure has positive and negative effects for the body. In 19th century scientists started to become more aware of this and only at the beginning of 20th century the vigilance against long term sun exposure increased considerably.In 1940 was mentioned for the first time that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer even though at the end of the 19th century were in place sunburn treatments and after sun products.

What is happening in the skin during sun exposure?

Our skin, being the outermost protective barrier, is exposed to different external factors, one of them being sun light. Naturally, our skin can reflect or absorb the sun light but in order to any changes to take place in the skin the light has to be absorbed.

Now, our skin contains numerous molecules that absorb UV rays especially UVA and UVB and more recently was proved that UVR (ultraviolet radiation), being also absorbed is the one linked with skin cancer and photoaging. UVR is able to produce major changes in the skin until deep in the dermis (second big layer of the skin, first one being epidermis) by generating Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS is a term that is largely spread when it comes to photoaging. ROS are also believed to be the main reason for age-related damages of the skin like deep wrinkles or furrows, this consequences being also called photoaging.

What’s happening inside of your skin when UVR produces Reactive Oxygen Species is a chain of multiple changes:

1. Inflammation and tissue (connective) degradation that increases collagen breakdown, which result in inhibition of collagen and hyaluronan synthesis (very important in keeping the skin hydrated).

2. There’s an increase in production of protein in the skin that leads to destruction of the environment around the cells (extracellular matrix). Extracellular matrix has the role to give structure and support to the cells. Once this environment is damaged, the wrinkles will form because of loss of moisture and elasticity, the skin becomes now fragile and the ability to heal decreases. Finally, prolonged exposure leads to epidermal thickness and reduced skin barrier function.
Because there’s so many changes going on in the skin, even if are not visible to the naked eye, the skin need proper care after sunbathing.

Sun exposure and skin cancer

The best skincare routine after sun exposure

First, the skin should be washed with warm look water and a cleanser with a pH between 5.5 and 7, made with gentle surfactants that won’t disturb the lipids of the skin. If it contains hydrating or moisturizing ingredients is even better because these will minimise the damage already done to the epidermis.
Clinical tests have be done on non-foaming cleansers and what scientists found out was that these are extremely mild to the skin while still being very effective. The downside for these cleansers is that won’t create that feeling of cleanliness that is imperative for some people, even though is not the healthiest thing for the skin as that means that skin have been completely stripped off of it’s natural oils.

After gently cleansing the skin, first has to be cooled and calmed. Gels or toners made with ingredients like aloe vera or cucumber are highly recommended and if there’s menthol present as well, the results are guaranteed. After long sun exposure, this kind of gels should be used quite often to bring down the heat in the tissue otherwise this will accelerate the evaporation of water from the skin which can lead to severe dehydration.

In one study, it has been shown that Menthol had a cooling effect on the subjects up to 70 minutes, this aspect reinforcing the need to reapply the gel more often during the day.

The next step is to restore the skin’s barrier ability to hold water.

Moisturisers made with ingredients like glycerine, hyaluronic acid or panthenol, that are also anti-inflammatory will be very helpful in this situation. Plant based ingredients like azulene, bisabolol or liquorice are usually present in after sun products because of their benefits to repair the barrier of the skin.

When the skin is red and inflamed as a result of sun exposure and natural barrier is impaired, which means that small particles of dust, chemicals or bacteria can easily penetrate the skin, you want to make sure that everything you use is in the purest possible form to really help the skin to heal faster.

NatureSpa organic skincare that can be used after sun exposure:

Organic Aloe Vera Repairing Serum with Hyaluronic acid

Deep Hydration Face Cream with Green Tea and Liquorice


Roeck K, Grandoch M, Majora M, Krutmann J, Fischer JW. Collagen fragments inhibit hialuronan synthesis in skin fibroblasts in response to UVB, 2011

Tsoureli-Nikita E, Watson REB, Griffiths CEM. Photoaging: The darker side of the sun. 2006

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