Without the sun there is no life on our earth - after all, our whole solar system revolves around this star. As a rule, we love the sun - it warms and makes us feel good. It also has effects on our bodies: It helps us produce vitamin D, boosts serotonin production and gives our skin a certain complexion. It's no longer a big news that you should enjoy the sun's rays in moderation and with caution - the dangers of ozone and skin cancer are regularly explained.
Vitamin D: The sun 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 absorb vitamin D through food, you would have to eat a lot to do so. A stay in the sun is less calorie-rich: after just a few minutes our vitamin D production is boosted.
- On a summer day it is sufficient to hold your face, hands and forearms in the sun for a quarter of an hour.
- Please note that the ability to produce vitamin D also depends on age and skin colour: 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
No sooner does the sun appear in spring than we often throw our reason overboard: We like to let the long-awaited sun shine on our bare skin, both at home and on holiday. Despite better knowledge of the dangers, many people are "susceptible" to the warming sunrays. In fact, addiction researchers have already addressed the issue - many sun worshippers even fulfil objectively measurable criteria for an addiction. If we expose ourselves to the sun, the body's own endorphins are also released. These in turn trigger a kind of intoxication in us and - in the end - make us addicted.
Enjoyed in moderation, however, the sun is not only an important supplier of energy and a producer of vitamin D, it also keeps us healthy and is missing when we have to get along without it for a long 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 flat angle and their effect is less pronounced.
- 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 preparations for infants, the elderly and young people, especially in autumn and winter, can be considered.
- Healthy adults should try to take advantage of the few hours of sunshine even in winter and stay outdoors. This also helps against the winter blues, because sunlight stimulates the production of the happiness hormone serotonin.
- In the dark, however, the sleep hormone melatonin is increasingly produced. If our body lacks the natural light, we become tired and listless. If you suffer from exhaustion, melancholy and excessive appetite, you might have been caught in 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 causes cell damage and accelerates skin aging. This is due to the UVA and UVB rays contained in sunlight.
How harmful is UVB radiation?
- UVB radiation is responsible for sunburn and skin cancer.
- UVB rays primarily penetrate the uppermost layer of the skin. The body reacts with an increased release of melanin, the dye that tans our skin. In addition, a kind of horny layer forms on the skin surface, which is also called light callosity. However, weeks can pass before these protective mechanisms of the skin run at full speed. Until then, the UVB light can penetrate the skin as far as possible unhindered (keyword sunburn).
- UVB rays alter the genetic make-up of skin cells
How harmful is UVA radiation?
- The long-wave UVA rays also cause skin damage. In addition, UVA rays are more treacherous than UVB light, because UVA rays penetrate deeper - into the connective tissue - a
- Skin damage caused by UVA is only visible years later, for example in the form of hyperpigmentation, the excessive storage of melanin.
- UVA radiation triggers chemical processes in the connective tissue that dissolve free radicals. Free radicals are not only known as co-causers of cancer, they also attack our elastin and collagen depots. These two substances are important for a firm and young skin. The consequence: The collagen net gets holes. And these are visible as wrinkles in the skin.
- UVA rays alter the genetic make-up of skin cells
- Solariums mainly work with UVA light, for this reason it was decided in August 2009 that these solariums may only be visited from 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 sunbeds before the age of 30.
- UVA radiation can penetrate glass panes and is also present when the sky is cloudy or haze is present.
UVA is therefore primarily responsible for skin ageing, UVB causes sunburn. Both types of radiation have one thing in common: they can cause skin cancer!
The skin maintains a damage account
Meanwhile skin cancer is one of the most frequent cancer diseases in Germany. Doctors and associations agree that the biggest risk factor for its development is simply excessive sun exposure. The problem: our skin does not forget, but keeps a damage account, so to speak. Not only every sunburn, but also long sunbaths damage the skin. Each person has an individual "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 - can be traced back to youthful sins in old age. Therefore it is important to pay attention to sun protection already at a young age. Use products with well-tolerated UV filters. Here you can read important facts about UV filters. Of course, sun protection products should protect against UVA and UVB radiation, but this is now the case with almost all products. In the 80s and 90s, however, protection against UVA radiation was not yet an issue. The proportionate UVA protection of a sun protection product must contain one third of the UVB protection, otherwise the UVA seal must not be used. By the way: Depending on the manufacturer, you will find the UVA seal on the product itself, on the package insert or on the product packaging.
HighDroxy offers two sun protection products that naturally protect against UVA and UVB radiation: DAY LIGHT 30 protects with factor 30 against UVB and with factor 12 against UVA radiation.
D-FENCE 50 has a UVB protection of 50 and a UVA protection of 32, so please remember that every sunscreen product depends on how you use it. We have summarised more information on this in a separate article for you.
In addition to sun protection products for application to the skin, there are numerous 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 holiday.
Picture credits: BeeBuddy/istockphoto.com