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Sunburn: Are you Deliberately putting Yourself at Risk?

By HERWriter
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Sunburn related image Photo: Getty Images

“What’s a little bit of sun?” “It’s not very sunny today. I don’t need to wear sunscreen.” “Oh, it’s just a little burn. Not a big deal.” “I just need a touch of sun so I don’t look so white.”

Sound familiar?

Let’s take a closer look.

What Causes Sunburn?

A sunburn is caused by exposure to too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun. UVA are long wavelengths and UVB are short wavelengths of ultraviolet light. It is not the sunlight itself that causes sunburn, but the presence and strength of the UVA and/or UVB rays. That’s why on a cloudy day you can still get a sunburn. In fact, “[a]s much as 90 percent of UV rays pass through clouds. UV rays can also reflect off snow, ice, sand, water and other reflective surfaces [including white or bright colored clothing] and can burn your skin as badly as direct” sun exposure. (MayoClinic.com)

Your body produces a pigment called melanin, which gives your skin its normal colors. The darker your skin the more melanin your body produces. When you are exposed to ultraviolet light your body produces more melanin to protect the deeper layers of the skin resulting (at least in lighter skinned people) a suntan.

“A suntan is actually your body’s way of blocking the UV rays to prevent sunburn and other skin damage.” (MayoClinic.com) Some people genetically do not produce enough melanin to protect the skin well, and eventually skin burns.

Unlike a burn resulting from direct contact with a heat source (eg: fire or stove element), the skin doesn’t redden right away. By the time pain is felt, the damage has already been done. “Sunburn in a very light-skinned person may occur in less than 15 minutes of noonday sun exposure ...” (University of Notre Dame).

Still think a sunburn is no big deal? Let’s look at some statistics.

Results of Long-Term Sunburn or Sun Exposure

Long-term UVA and UVB exposure (including tanning beds) is the leading cause of both basal and squamous cell cancers ... the most common form of cancer in Canada and the United States.

Add a Comment2 Comments


Thank you for your suggestion.

Don't know about about ordinary sunscreens being toxic, but it is always good to find out about natural products as an alternative.

October 22, 2011 - 3:53pm
EmpowHER Guest

Every second of sun exposure damages your skin, and avoiding sun damage is one of the most important steps you can take to maintaining your skin's youthful appearance. However, one problem is that most sunscreen lotions are toxic. So what do you do? A product called Sunsafe Rx is a nutritional supplement that protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays while also being great for your skin and eyes. It is a really amazing, new, natural products. There is more information on the Sunsafe Rx website.

October 22, 2011 - 2:58pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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