Summer in the UK has been glorious this year, even if a little unusual. (Photo: Holkham beach, Norfolk, UK).
Brits are often ill prepared for weather extremes, including how to stay safe in the sun. In the UK skin cancer has been steadily rising since the mid-70s, of which two causes have been linked to a failure to use the right level of SPF factor or not bothering to apply any at all.
Could it be that our cultural views about tanning are partly to blame for our poor sun protection habits?
A century ago tanned skin was looked upon as vulgar by middle and upper classes, but after the World War 2 attitudes started to shift and by the late 1940’s society decided that having a tan looked healthy.
Some of you may remember that sun protection wasn’t a big deal in the seventies and eighties. We used sun tan enhancer lotions or DIY versions such as baby oil and cocoa butter rather than sun protection creams. Sun burn was considered a harmless process of getting a tan (and it still is for many). However, a tan is nothing more than the body’s way of repairing UV ray damage to skin cells.
While the short term consequences may have been burnt skin and peeling shoulder blades, what we may not have been aware of at the time was that some of the more damaging effects would take years to manifest themselves.
How severe those effects could be depends on the extent of sun exposure over the years and how often we allowed our skin to burn. We also need to factor in other influences such as diet, lifestyle habits and skin tone. (1)
So here are 3 long term effects of sun damage that every mid-lifer should know
Skin will change appearance due to the process of getting older (intrinsic ageing) but how fast our skin ages is significantly related to the total hours of lifetime sun exposure. For example, a survey of females living in northern versus southern Japan discovered that women who had lower levels of sun exposure looked 8-16 years younger than those with higher levels of sun exposure (2).
In another survey it was determined that 80% of the visible signs of ageing was a result of UV damage (3), these signs included: premature wrinkling, sagging skin, easy bruising, pigmentation disorders, mottled skin tone, inflammation, dryness, darkened skin, rough patches, ruddy skin texture and a decrease in the skin’s healing abilities.
Lowered Immune System.
According to the World Health Organisation over exposure to UV rays may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye and immune system (4). A few of their studies also confirm that too much sun exposure can increase our chances of developing cataracts later in life and has been linked to the reoccurrence of cold sores!
Skin Cancer Risks
Heightened Over time the sun's ultraviolet (UV) reduces the skin’s barrier function and therefore affects its ability to heal and protect itself from further UV ray exposure. This vicious cycle puts us at a higher risk of getting melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
Conclusions & What Can You Do?
None of us want to age before our time but sun damage accelerates the ageing process, which can lead to other health concerns. If you want to reduce your risk of sun burn and its associated health risks you can Nudge your way to better skin health with these 4 simple steps.
If you commit to these new habits you will notice the difference in time, promise! (We will be posting more tips and ideas for treating sun damaged skin in future posts, so make sure you are signed up to our newsletter so that you don't miss out on the latest tips and advice).
- Adopt a New Mind Set It takes a bit of time to change associations but it is worth remembering that associating a tan to healthy looking skin was a cultural opinion developed in the forties, it is not a fact. A suntan may be cosmetically desirable, but in fact it is nothing but a sign that your skin has been damaged and has attempted to protect itself. The truth is, the key to healthy and youthful skin is to keep it protected from too much sun exposure.
- Get Protected Follow the basic sun protection rules: Cover up with a high SPF, wear thin layers rather than exposing the skin for long periods, stay out of the mid-day sun when you can, spend time in the shade and wear a hat when out and about in the sun.
- Replenish Your Skin Add oil based skin care products such as facial oils/serums, body butters and balms to your beauty regime. Not only do they offer a higher level of protection for sun damaged skin, such as dryness, wrinkling and inflammation, but they provide a barrier protection to thinning, mature skin.
Saffron Glow Facial Oil Serum has been formulated for dry, sun damaged skin, find out more here
- Repair Your Skin from the Inside Out Foods rich in antioxidants act like an ‘internal sunscreen’, so eat more foods that are high in carotenoids, such as lycopene (tomatoes, grapefruit, mangos and carrots) and Resveratol (peanuts, grapes, blueberries and dark chocolate).
Two of best known anti-oxidants are vitamins C and E, so any juicy fruits and leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils can help the skin recover from sun damage.
Read our Blog posts categorised under 'Beauty Nutrition' for inspiration and ideas. It's not too late to help your skin recover.
What small behavioural change can you start today?
Remember every Nudge in the right direction counts!
(1) darker skin tones are more likely to produce dark patchy pigmentation while lighter skin is more likely to develop fine lines and wrinkles