UV-What?

“For a six billion-year-old star, the sun is certainly in the news a lot…mainly because it is still a source of uncertainty and confusion to many of us.” – skincancer.org, 2013


UV

[Photo courtesy of tv.libertytv.com]

One of the most important parts of any social movement is the facts and information that form its foundations and validate its purpose. So while it’s easy enough to sit here and say, “we all must protect our skin from the sun” and “sunburn and tanning isn’t good for us”, all the non-believers could just as easily turn around as ask, why? So today I will provide my ‘why.’

Essentially, the skin-damaging element of the sun that effects us when we are exposed to it is something called Ultra Violet rays (UV). UV has been idenitfied by the World Health Organisation as being the main cause of nonmelanoma skin cancers, while also significantly contributing to the development of the most deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. But one of the most interesting things about our knowledge of UV rays is that it is far from complete. In fact, scientists are constantly making new discoveries and developing new health guidelines and forms of protection as new information comes to light (no pun intended).  The Skin Cancer Foundation include a very clear outline of what UV is:

“UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. These wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC.” [skincancer.org, 2013]

Much of the confusion stems from our understanding (or lack of) UVA – which are long-wave ultraviolet rays; and UVB – which are shortwave rays. Initially it was thought that only UVB was of a concern to the health of our skin, however scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that UVA rays, which make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches earth, is actually doing more damage to our skin despite being less intense than UVB. This is because they are far more prevalent, they are relatively equal in intensity to UVB during the hours of daylight, they penetrate our skin more deeply than UVB, they can penetrate clouds and glass, and they are still able to cause damage to the layer of our skin where most cancers occur. However, both forms of UV are capable of causing serious damage to us, even by suppressing our immune system, which reduces our ability to fight all kinds of disease.

But UVA is of particular interest to us at Shun the Sun because it is UVA that causes us to tan. We have spoken extensively in previous posts how damaging tanning is to our skin and how some people go about achieving that seemingly all important bronzed glow; but if people knew exactly what was going on to their skin when they lay out in the sun then maybe they would think twice about the supposed beauty of being tanned:

A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA.

Tanning literally penetrates our cells, disfiguring our DNA – the stuff that makes up our very being. Scary? We think so.

— Key facts primarily sourced from the Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb

A REAL ROASTING

Roastings

“While tanning oils themselves aren’t harmful to the human body, it’s what they are used for that can cause some serious problems.” – http://www.livestrong.com/article/252239-what-are-the-dangers-of-tanning-oil/#ixzz2fycKu4sl

On this 32 degree day I’m sitting in the shade on the steps along the beach at Manly, watching scores of people rubbing tanning oil onto their skin to ‘help’ them tan. Isn’t it scary that it’s exactly the same thing your mum does to the roast chicken or turkey to achieve that tough, brown skin? And indeed, tough brown skin is what you’ll get after prolonged use of tanning aids such as oils and sun beds. Aside from the serious health risks such as cancer, which I have already extensively outlined, there are some real aesthetic downsides to it too. While a tan might make you look good temporarily, the look of them barely lasts beyond Autumn, but I can guarantee the effects do:

“In addition to the risk of skin cancer, tanning excessively contributes to ageing quickly. Tans may cover cellulite and give the appearance of clear skin; however, the skin actually looks worse once the tan fades. Premature wrinkling is an enormous side of effect of tanning.” – http://www.ehow.com/about_5465473_tanning-oil-dangers.html#ixzz2fydiwA3m

With all the horrendous side effects associated with trying to achieve a natural tan, it’s any wonder why people are still resorting to such lengths. And according to recent reports, the health effects of fake tans look to be just as serious. By definition, fake tan is “[a] lotions, sprays, creams, mousses and combined moisturiser and fake tan products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a chemical or vegetable dye that temporarily stains the skin, giving a tanned appearance. The dye interacts and binds with the dead skin cells located in the upper layer of the skin. The colour comes off when the dead skin cells flake off – approximately 1 week after application.” http://www.cancer.org.au/content/pdf/CancerControlPolicy/PositionStatements/PS-Fake_tans_August_2007.pdf
They contain a range of different chemicals like carcinogens, nano particles and DHA, some of which have been linked with contributing to serious health issues including hormone disruptions leading to birth defects, infertility and breast cancer, genetic mutation, DNA damage, and irritation of the skin and lungs. While some of these chemicals like nano particles do have some other useful functions, scientists’ lack of knowledge on the behaviour of these particles on a small scale means we should be very cautious as consumers.

Secondly, as Australia’s Cancer Council points out in its ‘Position Statement‘ for fake tan, there seems to be a misconception that fake tan acts to provide UV protection for our skin for the duration of the ‘tan’:

“Some people who use fake tans mistakenly believe that a tan will provide them with protection against UV radiation. As a result, they may not take sun protection measures, putting them at greater risk of skin cancer.” – http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/causes-of-skin-cancer.html

While it is undeniably more beneficial (health wise) for the tan-obsessed to use any number of alternative skin products that achieve a bronzed look in a much safer way, the sheer volume of these products available indicates the real underlying societal issue – that people need to be tanned, no matter what. Indeed, the Cancer Council’s number one recommendation in relation to fake tan is:

  1. “Cancer Council does not promote the perception that tanned skin is more desirable than pale skin”

Whether its real tan or fake tan, you’ll likely end up either with health problems and wrinkles or streaky orange legs that smell a little like urine. There are plenty of skin products available in supermarkets and at beauty stores that are designed to moisturise and enrich our natural skin, giving it a healthy glow no matter what colour. A few of my favourites include:

  • Palmers Olive Butter lotion: http://www.palmersaustralia.com/products/body-care/olive-butter-formula-lotion-250ml/
  • L’Occitane Verbena Harvest body lotion: http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/en/davidjones/beauty/bath–body—hair/verbena-harvest-body-lotion-250ml
  • Kiehl’s Creme De Corps: http://www.kiehls.com.au/travel/travel-ready-formulas/creme-de-corps?gclid=CLCR-I7B6LkCFcpfpQod5WMAPw

[Photo courtesy of steamykitchen.com]

CAN THE TAN CAN

CAN THE TAN CAN

CAN THE TAN CAN: Bad spray tans – It is hard understand why young people think that a streaky orange fake tan looks better than the skin they were born in. Sun protection is important, but so is changing people’s attitudes about needing to look bronzed. The two go hand in hand. Tell me guys, which look would you prefer?
[Photo courtesy of glowandgoimaging.com]