How does the Sun, Our Source of Life, Affect Our Skin?

We all know that there can be no life without the sun. People who are not exposed to the sun are prone to various diseases. In addition, we also know that our skin is damaged (at least there will be a burn wound) when we stay under the sun for a long time. The color of the skin, which is exposed to the sun for a certain period of time, becomes darker. In the white race, sun-brown skin is immediately noticeable.  In ancient times, sun-brown skin was generally observed in farmers working in the open. Especially for women this was a humiliating situation because it represented rural people. On the other hand, aristocratic women with their light skin wanted to express their privilege.

In the second half of the 20th century, the white race had a new fashion of displaying their bodies on the beaches in summer and getting sun-browned. Being able to go to the seaside and beaches requires a certain social status and economic power. Those who have this privilege have tried to show this with the browning of their skin and try to give the image that they are socially privileged. This fashion has become so popular that technology has immediately taken advantage of it. The facilities called “solarium” were opened and the skin color started to be darkened with technological devices.

If we leave all this mediatic information aside, science approaches the event very differently. It has been proven that sun rays age our skin and increase the likelihood of cancer.

Harmful waves in sunlight

The harmful effect of the sun is caused by the rays we call ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is electromagnetic radiation found in sunlight. Since the wavelength is shorter than the visible light, they cannot be noticed with the eye. Ultraviolet has types A, B and C. Type C usually does not reach the earth because it is absorbed by the ozone layer in the atmosphere. What reaches us is mostly ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Ultraviolet A (UVA): Does not cause a change in skin color. It has been understood that this radiation, which was thought to be not very harmful in the past, actually causes a dangerous cancer called melanoma. It plays an important role in skin aging and damage, as it can progress to deeper parts of the skin. It makes indirect changes in the genetic structure we call DNA. Ultraviolet A also shows its harmful effects by passing through glass and clouds.

Ultraviolet B (UVB): It is the light that causes the color of our skin to darken under the sun. Accelerates skin aging. It increases wrinkles. It also facilitates the formation of various skin spots and cancers. It directly changes the DNA structure.

Ultraviolet C (UVC): It has the highest energy and damage among ultraviolet rays. It has a germicidal effect. It causes changes in genes and cancers. Fortunately, it is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and the atmosphere and does not pose a serious danger to people on earth under normal conditions.

How do we protect ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun?

If we want to preserve the health and freshness of our skin, we must protect ourselves from the sun’s rays. Every person should have time to spend outdoors and under the sun in his daily life. However, we should avoid being under the sun for a long time. Avoiding excessive sun should not be understood as not going to the beaches at all. Even without going to the beach, we can be exposed to excessive sun in our daily life.

Simple measures we can take to protect ourselves from excessive sun

Being in the shade: It is necessary not to walk under the sun, especially during the hours when the ultraviolet is the most (between 10 and 16 hours). Sun exposure in a room or in a car is also dangerous, as ultraviolet A (UVA) can pass through glass.

Wearing protective clothing: If we are going to be under the sun as a necessity, we should take care not to be naked. Long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and skirts effectively protect from the sun. Closely woven and dark colored fabrics are more protective than light colored and sparsely woven fabrics. Hats and sunglasses are also effective in protecting the eyes, periorbital areas and scalp.

Using sunscreen: Sunscreens are substances prepared to filter the harmful rays of the sun. They are used by rubbing on the skin. They are also known as ultraviolet wicking agents or sunray blocking agents. There are various types on the market. They can be in the form of lotions, gels, creams, sprays, etc. Not all sunscreens have the same effect. Most of them only protect against ultraviolet B (UVB). Recently, products that have a protective effect against UVB as well as ultraviolet A (UVA) have been developed. These are called broad spectrum sunscreens. While taking sun oil, those that protect from both ultraviolet rays (broad-effect-spectrum ones) should be preferred.

Sun protection factor (SPF): The degree to which sunscreens filter harmful rays is called the “sun protection factor” (SPF). SPF is expressed in numbers ranging from zero to 100. A sunscreen with an SPF factor of over 25 should be used to provide good protection. The effect of sunscreens is not absolute. For example, a cream with SPF 15 can block 93% of UVB, while SPF 30 can block 97% and SPF 50 can block 98%. The effectiveness of SPF 100 is 99%. As you can see, there is a very small difference in protection between SPF 30 and SPF 100. Sunscreens have a limited duration of protection. If you spend 30 minutes in the sun when a sunscreen with SPF 30 is applied, the body will perceive it as one minute. But if you stay under the sun for 5 hours with the same oil, the body will perceive it as 10 minutes, which is not a short time under the hot sun. In other words, one should not stay under the sun for hours just because sunscreen is applied.

Resistance to water: It can be written on the packaging of some sunscreens that the effect of the substance does not disappear in the water. Tests show that oils that are said to be resistant to water also lose their effect in 40 to 80 minutes in case of wetting or sweating. For this reason, they should be reapplied when these periods expire in cases of sweating and entering water.

How to use sunscreen? Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going out in the sun for full protection. The oil needs to be spread over all the exposed parts of the skin. Under normal conditions, oil should be reapplied every 2-3 hours. In cases of sweating and entering the water, it is beneficial to repeat the sun oil hourly or more frequently.


Browning devices, also known as sun beds or sun lamps, are not as harmless as one might think. These lamps give off ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB) rays. Both rays are harmful to the skin. It has aging, corrosive and even cancer-causing effects. Especially when used by people under the age of 30, the risk of developing melanoma increases in the future.