What happens to the skin during sunburn and how do you indulge in healthy tanning? Moderate direct sun exposures are of course necessary for the skin to produce natural vitamin D3, which is then used to strengthen bones and the immune system. The production of melanin in the skin is also beneficial to health by reducing the incidence of sunburn and providing valuable antioxidants. It’s often a delicate dance in and out of sunshine to maintain good health balance.
No matter how careful we are with our protective clothing and skin care, invariably we will have experienced some form of sunburn during the heat of the summer months. Oops! Did you fall asleep, get carried away with a good book or pulled too many weeds in the garden and lost track of how long you were in the sun? It can also happen very quickly when we are swimming or on white beach sand because of amplified reflections. Sunburn can even happen in the shade!
Ultraviolet Radiation Causes DNA Damage, Sunburn and Peeling:
When a UV photon from sunlight strikes the skin it can damage the DNA in skin cells. It does this by breaking the orderly bonds between the nucleotides, adenosine, thymine and guanine. (Did you know that magnesium is essential to repair DNA linkages?)
About four hours after ultraviolet radiation exposure ‘erythema’ sets in – as in the ’red lobster’ look.
Blood vessels dilate in the dermis to nourish the epidermis, which causes the developing redness and heat build-up. The epidermis loses some of its protective cholesterol fat mantle, as the heat from the sun can fluidify and melt the skin’s natural fats. Without enough fats we lose water too quickly from the skin and become dehydrated. A dehydrated and dry skin is more vulnerable to sun damage.
When cells are damaged apoptosis (cell death) occurs in the epidermis and skin peels off. Cells that are deeper in the skin layer that are effected and too deep to peel off are repaired by enzymes. (Did you know that magnesium supports enzyme activity?). If you wipe enough cells out in the dermis (underneath the epidermis) you get blistering and inflammation (ouch!), as the body sends water to try to cool off the affected area.
After a couple of days new skin cells called keratinocytes move up from the basal levels outward into the epidermal layer to replace those that peeled off and you have a new outer layer of skin. If all goes well your melanocytes will have contributed some extra melanin to these new skin cells.
Sometimes not all of the DNA is repaired in the process – especially if all the building materials (nutrients) to make a new cell are not readily available. Over time repeated sun damage and burns can lead to melanomas. If we are malnourished the damage tends to be worse.
Melanin is the skin pigment produced by melanocytes and is what makes us a tanned or brown colour:
Melanin has numerous beneficial properties:
- UV light absorption and scattering,
- free radical scavenging and antioxidant acivity,
- coupled oxidation-reduction reactions and
- ion storage.
Each melanocyte resides between the basal layer cells and through dendritic processes communicates with about 30-40 keratinocytes in the epidermal melanin unit. The melanocyte synthesizes melanins in melanosomes transported into keratinocytes to protect them from UV radiation.
“In all skin types, DNA damage occurs to a greater extent in the upper layers of the epidermis, while the lower layers of the skin are protected as the melanin content of the skin increases…
“After UVR (ultraviolet radiation) melanin migrates towards the surface of the skin and is thereby more visible and also more effective in shielding the lower layers of the skin from UV irradiation. … DNA damage is greatest immediately after UV exposure and is gradually repaired thereafter, and subjects with darker skin type incur less DNA damage than subjects with lighter skin.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671032/
Natural Tanning Produces More Melanin Which Helps to Prevent Sunburn:
If you want to tan sensibly then you need smaller exposures in the beginning when the skin is a wintery fairness. The lighter the skin the quicker it will tend to burn, so be very careful. Make sure you baste yourself well with rich plant fats – ideally fats infused with extra magnesium because magnesium is essential for skin repair and collagen production, which improves skin thickness and resilience. As melanin and skin texture improves it will slow down skin dehydration. Of course it also helps to drink plenty of water!
The thinner the skin the quicker it will burn, so make sure to keep your face shaded with a hat and less exposed than the rest of your body which has a thicker skin.
Faster Recovery From Sunburn Using Elektra Magnesium Cream
To enhance your skin recovery rate from sunburn you can cover the red areas thickly with plant fats infused with magnesium, such as Magnesium Cream. The quicker you do this after sun exposure, the faster your recovery rate and the less likely your skin will peel. Repeat a couple of times a day at least. You will know if your skin has had enough because it won’t take in any more Magnesium Cream. If you find that you have rubbed it in and shortly afterwards it seems to have just disappeared, then apply more until it doesn’t go in anymore. Remember the skin has been dehydrated severely by the UV radiation and needs a lot of nutrients and hydration put back to help it recover.
Over time, little by little, your melanin production will increase. This will allow you to stay out a bit longer before sunburn occurs. It’s a bit like basting a chicken really. Don’t overdo anything. Coax it along gently and avoid a sunburn which blisters because this is damaging down to the dermal layer.
Make sure to avoid skin products with carcinogenic ingredients – that would be artificial chemicals. Natural ingredients and nutrients are always better to feed the skin – the largest organ and membrane of the body. Above all, be sensible. Pay attention to your skin type and what it can safely tolerate.
By Sandy Sanderson