Why You Need Sunburn Relief in the First Place

IMG_0130Why is it that the whiter your skin is, the greater a chance you have of getting burned and needing sunburn relief when unprotected under the sun’s rays? If you are caucasian and have fair skin, you probably started the season out with very pale skin, then if you slowly got a tan bit by bit, you will be better able to handle the sun for the rest of the summer. Whereas that first time out, your white skin was in real danger of becoming burned.

What causes this?

First let’s learn a bit about how the magnificent organ of our skin actually works. The basic function of the skin is to create an intelligent boundary between your inner workings and the outside world.

In order to perform this function, the skin must be relatively tough (for an organ) and be able to shed layers that get damaged by the environment. There are two main layers. The first, or outer layer, is the epidermis and the second, or deeper layer, is called the dermis. The epidermis is responsible for providing the most protection from the outside world, while the dermis can provide important, complex functions and contains the mechanoreceptors (sense temperature and pain), oil glands, nerve endings, hair follicles, connective tissue, and so on.

There are capillaries in the fatty layer beneath the dermis, which branch into the dermis and not only provide it with nourishment, but also help to cool the body from heat. Interestingly, the outermost skin layer (epidermis) has no direct blood supply of its own and can only be nourished and supported by the dermis.

There are a variety of nerve endings which are found in the dermis. They each can alert the body about different sensations such as temperature, pressure, itching, and pain. These nerve endings are vital to helping you stay safe from abrasions, burns, collision, etc. by sounding the alarm if your skin senses danger.

The outer layer, or epidermis, is made up of four layers. The inner layers are living, and the outer layer is dead. Interestingly, it is the dead layer that we’re actually looking at when we see someone’s skin. But it’s quite thin. The cells on this layer are always flaking away and being replaced by new cells that die off from deeper inside the epidermis.

One of the living inner layers of the epidermis is the malpighian layer. The reason it’s important for us to get so technical here is because not only does this layer give rise to the dead cells of the epidermis, but it is the place affected by the sun when we go outside.

Within the melpighian layer are basal cells and also a type of cell called a melanocyte. This second cell creates melanin, the pigment that colors our skin when we get a tan. When our skin is exposed to sunlight and develops a tan, the melanocytes increase their activity and produce more melanin, or color. When someone has naturally darker skin, however, their production of melanin is ongoing – regardless of sun exposure, and so they will have more pigment year-round than a fair skinned person.

When these melanocytes are damaged by too much UV radiation, the cancer called melanoma can develop. In darker skinned people, the melanin is protecting their melanocytes from UV radiation and thus protects them from needing sunburn relief or from getting cancer as well.

When people with light skin get a sunburn, they have an increased blood flow to the affected area of the skin (creates redness and swelling), which is triggered by DNA damage and inflammation. The process increases the cancer risk for anyone who has developed a sunburn and needs sunburn relief.




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