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Imagine the warm, tingly feeling of bright summer sunshine on your bare skin. What is happening to your skin? Why is it getting warm? Will it burn? Will it tan?
To answer these questions and learn how to best care for your skin when you spend time in the sun, you have to first understand the nature of sunlight.
The sunshine you see is only a portion of the total band of electromagnetic radiation that the sun bathes us in. Visible light, when polarized into a rainbow, can be seen to be made up of a spectrum of colors from yellow, green, blue and violet to red. The invisible infrared light of sunshine is thermal radiation which exists outside of the rainbow spectrum beyond its visible red band. You feel infrared light as the heat of the sun.
Invisible ultraviolet (UV) light exists beyond the visible violet light of the rainbow. UV light itself is made up of a spectrum of very dangerous ionizing radiation and less dangerous non-ionizing radiation. Much of the ionizing radiation never gets past the outer ozone and nitrogen molecules in the earth’s atmosphere. But some of it does reach your exposed skin.
If unprotected, the ionizing UV photon particles physically destroy the chemical bonds between the molecules that hold your skin together, most critically the DNA molecules which must be undamaged for healthy skin cell regeneration. A suntan is the result of your skin's ability to protect itself (to a certain extent) from UV radiation with the generation and release of the pigment known as melanin.
A sunburn is a type of radiation burn that happens with prolonged, over-exposure to UV radiation. The redness, pain, blistering, peeling and sometimes nausea associated with sunburn are symptoms of the damaged skin reacting and repairing itself to the DNA and cellular damage caused by the UV radiation.
Protecting your skin from UV damage is important and should be undertaken before, during and after any exposure to the sun, especially if there is potential for extended exposure. Wear a wide brimmed hat and cover exposed skin with comfortable, loose fitting clothing. Apply topical sunscreen products that feature an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number on the label. The number is a measure of how long the product remains effective on the skin, so the longer you are exposed, the higher the SPF number you should apply.
The warmth of the sun and its exposure to the air can lead to drying, so apply a base of moisturizing protection before venturing outside. Use this body oil featuring Aura Cacia Lavender, Geranium and Grapseed Oil after your morning shower on the day you plan to be outside. Please note that this recipe will not protect your skin from the effects of UVA or UVB exposure.
Always apply a non-toxic sunscreen (see the Environmental Working Group's 2014 Guide to Sunscreens for recommended brands that protects from both spectrums of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB. Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, and wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Additionally, apply this moisturizing and soothing body spray featuring Aura Cacia Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil whenever you need to refresh your skin.
Cool and soothe your skin with this calming Aura Cacia Lavender Essential Oil, aloe and vinegar-based mist.