The sun - friend or foe?


Without the sun, there would be no life on Earth - after all, our entire solar system revolves around this star. As a rule, we love the sun - it warms us and puts us in a good mood. It also has an effect on our bodies: It helps us produce vitamin D, boosts serotonin production and gives our skin a certain complexion. The fact that you should enjoy the sun's rays in moderation and with caution is no longer big news - the dangers of ozone and skin cancer are regularly explained.  

Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that cannot be obtained from food alone, but can be produced by the body itself, namely in the skin. The necessary prerequisite is the sun - i.e. irradiation of the skin with UV light.

  • Although you can also get vitamin D from food, you would have to eat a lot of it. Spending time in the sun, on the other hand, is less caloric: after just a few minutes, our vitamin D production is boosted.
  • On a summer day, it is enough to hold your face, hands and forearms in the sun for fifteen minutes.
  • Please note that the ability to produce vitamin D also depends on age and skin color: light-skinned people absorb sun more easily than dark-skinned people. Older people also produce less vitamin D than younger people.

You can't do without the sun as a source of energy

As soon as the sun appears in spring, we often throw our common sense overboard: we like to let the long-awaited sun shine on our bare skin, both at home and on vacation. Despite knowing better about the dangers, many people are "susceptible" to the warming rays of the sun. In fact, addiction researchers have already taken up the subject - many sun worshippers even fulfill objectively measurable criteria for an addiction. Exposure to the sun also releases the body's own endorphins. These in turn trigger a kind of intoxication in us and - ultimately - make us addicted.

However, enjoyed in moderation, sun is not only an important supplier of energy and producer of vitamin D, it keeps us healthy and we miss it when we have to go without it for a longer period of time, e.g. in winter.

How to prevent the winter blues

In winter, many people spend less time outdoors than in summer. The production of vitamin D is made more difficult by the fact that the sun in our latitudes is so low from autumn onwards that the sun's rays fall at a shallow angle and have less effect.

  • According to studies by the Robert Koch Institute and the Max Rubner Institute, 60 percent of Germans are undersupplied with vitamin D in winter.
  • For this reason, a supply of vitamin D supplements for infants, the elderly and adolescents can be considered especially in autumn and winter.
  • Healthy adults should also try to take advantage of the few hours of sunshine in winter and spend time outdoors. This also helps against the winter blues, because sunlight stimulates the production of the happiness hormone serotonin.
  • In the dark, on the other hand, the sleep hormone melatonin is increasingly produced. If our body lacks natural light, we become tired and listless. If you suffer from exhaustion, melancholy and excessive appetite, you may be suffering from the winter blues.

UVA and UVB - the negative sides of the sun

Despite the positive effects, extended sunbathing is indeed hard work for your skin. Excessive sunlight leads to cell damage and accelerates skin aging. The UVA and UVB rays contained in sunlight are to blame.

How harmful is UVB radiation?

  • UVB radiation is responsible for sunburn and skin cancer.
  • UVB rays primarily penetrate the top layer of skin. The body reacts to this by increasing the release of melanin, the pigment that tans our skin. In addition, a kind of horny layer forms on the surface of the skin, which is also called a light callus. However, it can take weeks for these protective mechanisms of the skin to run at full speed. Until then, the UVB light can penetrate the skin largely unhindered (keyword sunburn).
  • UVB rays change the genetic material of skin cells

How harmful is UVA radiation?

  • The longer-wave UVA rays also cause skin damage. UVA rays are also more insidious than UVB light, because UVA rays penetrate deeper - right into the connective tissue
  • Skin damage caused by UVA is only visible years later, for example in the form of hyperpigmentation, i.e. the excessive storage of melanin.
  • UVA rays trigger chemical processes in the connective tissue that release free radicals. Free radicals are not only known as a contributor to cancer, they also attack our elastin and collagen depots. However, it is precisely these two substances that are important for firm and young skin. The consequence: the collagen network gets holes. And these are visible as wrinkles in the skin.
  • UVA rays alter the genetic material of skin cells
  • Tanning beds work predominantly with UVA light, which is why it was decided in August 2009 that these tanning beds may only be visited by people over the age of 18. No wonder, because according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of skin cancer increases by up to 75 percent if you regularly use tanning beds before the age of 30.
  • UVA radiation can penetrate glass panes and is present even in cloudy skies or haze.
What does UVA and UVB radiation do in the sun?

UVA is therefore primarily responsible for skin aging, UVB gives us sunburn. Both types of radiation have one thing in common: they can cause skin cancer!  

The skin keeps a damage account

Skin cancer is now one of the most common cancers in Germany. Doctors and associations agree that the greatest risk factor for its development is simply excessive sun exposure. The problem is that our skin does not forget, but keeps a damage account, so to speak. Not only every sunburn, but also long sunbaths damage the skin. Very individually, each person has a "credit balance" of what he or she can tolerate in terms of sun exposure, and this is used up at a certain point in time. Thus, almost 80 percent of skin damage - which unfortunately also includes black and white skin cancer - in old age can be traced back to youthful sins. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to sun protection at a young age. Use products with well-tolerated UV filters. Here you can read important facts about UV filters. Of course, sunscreen products should protect against UVA and UVB radiation, but this is now the case with almost all products. It was quite different in the 80s and 90s - here, protection against UVA radiation was not yet an issue. The proportional UVA protection of a sunscreen product must include one third of the UVB protection, otherwise the UVA seal may not be used. By the way: Depending on the manufacturer, you can find the UVA seal on the product itself, on the package insert or on the packaging of the product.

These products protect you reliably from UVA and UVB radiation

HighDroxy offers two sunscreen products that protect against UVA and UVB radiation: The DAY LIGHT 30 has factor 30 protection against UVB and factor 12 against UVA radiation.

D-FENCE 50 has a UVB protection of 50 and a UVA protection of 32. Please remember that with every sun protection product it depends on how you use it. We have summarized more information about this in a separate article for you.

In addition to sunscreen products to apply to the skin, there are many other ways to enjoy the sun in a healthy way. You can find tips on this in our article on sun protection in everyday life and on vacation.

Image credit: BeeBuddy/