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    The sun, friend or foe?

    April 28th, 2011 by Lynda Proulx, Dermo-esthéticienne/Phytothérapeute

    There’s a certain enthusiasm that takes us over when the rays of the sun hit those dirty, grey snow banks and that they begin to melt right before our eyes; when the warmth of spring prompts us to store away boots and coats. A certain energy pushes us to devouringly absorb the heat that we so severely missed during the winter. Yes, the sun is our friend. 

    When through carelessness or insufficient attention, or maybe even a little bit of both, our skin resembles a boiled lobster, the sun becomes our enemy. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that moderation is the key to a harmonious relationship with the sun.

    During the whole of winter, when our skin was deprived of sunlight, it lost the last of summer’s tan. When spring arrives, it is at its minimum coloration, therefore doing without its own auto protection. Tanning is one of the skin’s numerous defence mechanisms. Effectively, the contact with UVA and UVB rays, UVC rays being blocked out by the ozone layer, the melanogenesis process enters into action. This extremely complex process allows the skin to produce melanin which filters UV rays and to colour.

    The skin’s melanic photoprotection takes 2 to 3 days, which indicates the importance of a progressive exposure. We need to give our skin plenty of time to create its defences and natural filters. For example: let us imagine a marathon runner that takes 6 months off to rest, when it’s time to start running again, to avoid injury, he must begin to run progressively.

    To avoid sunstroke and the negative effects of the sun, it is better to know our skin to properly anticipate the reaction to all forms of exposure. Note that exposure is not only lying out in the sun for a tan, but any time the skin is exposed to the sun. A walk during a lunch break exposes the skin to UV rays and as such it must be treated accordingly.

    Following is a table of the six skin phototypes. 

    Skin phototype Typical features Tanning ability
    I Pale white skin, blue/hazel eyes, blond/red hair. Always burns, does not tan.
    II Fair skin, blue eyes. Burns easily, tans poorly.
    III Darker white skin. Tans after initial burn.
    IV Light brown skin. Burns minimally, tans easily.
    V Brown skin. Rarely burns, tans darkly easily.
    VI Dark brown or black skin. Never burns, always tans darkly.

    Source Wikipedia

    To keep the sun as our friend, we must adjust our behaviour and take into consideration the following factors:

    1.    Our skin phototype (see table above).

    2.    Our general health situation (take into consideration certain photosensitive medications).

    3.    The UV index (measure of the sun’s UV ray intensity and the potential health risks).

    4.    The skin’s adaptation period (if it has been exposed to the sun in the previous days or weeks or if it is at its minimum coloration).

    5.    The type of activity (heavy perspiration decreases the efficiency of sunscreens and may act as a magnifier to sun rays).

    6.    Exposure time (10 minutes or 2 hours makes a big difference. Let’s stay vigilant).

    In the next article we will discuss sunscreens and proper nutrition for tanning.

    Lynda Proulx


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