The Anatomy of a Sunburn


Summer is here! That means getting outside for many of us, especially if you reside in the Midwest. Days are longer and nights are warmer and, before you know it, your skin may start feeling the effects. For some, it’s oilier skin due to increased humidity, for others, it’s dry skin that can’t be quenched. But, for many, the unfolding of Summer wouldn’t be complete without that first sunburn from forgetting to protect your shoulders or nose. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what a sunburn IS and why it’s important to protect the skin you’re in ALL YEAR AROUND!

It’s not headline news that the sun’s harmful rays can damage your skin. Most of us have a healthy enough fear of skin cancer and premature aging that we remember to wear a sunscreen when venturing outside for extended periods. But, unless sunscreen is being applied correctly and often enough, you may not be getting the protection you need! It usually only takes one good burn to remind many of us of the need for DAILY sun protection, whether it be with lotions, creams, clothing or shade!

So, what is a sunburn exactly? When it all comes down to it, sunburn is cellular suicide, or apoptosis, a process through which cells sacrifice themselves to protect the next generation of fresh, healthy skin cell DNA.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause free radical damage to the surface of our skin and invoke oxidative stress. Free radicals, or “thieving molecules,” are lacking an electron in their outer orbit and are, therefore, unbalanced. In reaction, they try to steal an electron from anything they can to stabilize themselves. This includes the surface of your skin and can lead to a cascade of cellular damage and destruction.

One of the most immediate and prominent ways our skin responds to prolonged UV exposure is with inflammation. We literally feel hot when we’ve had too much sun! Exposed skin not only feels warm, it swells, burns and becomes tender to the touch. Once those symptoms are experienced (usually before), it’s a good bet that an uncomfortable sunburn and peeling skin is soon to follow. What many of us don’t know is that even turning slightly pink in the sun is a sign of injury to your skin. “Pink” means your skin has reached its “minimal erythemal dose,” or MED. MED is the lowest dose of sun exposure your skin needs to produce a sunburn, and it differs greatly from person to person.

Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

Do you have a friend that NEVER burns, but it seems like you can THINK about the sun and turn crispy? Several factors play into how a person’s skin tolerates the sun. Some are environmental, like what the UV-Index may be on a given day or, what altitude a person is at. Other factors come down to genetics! If you have a darker skin type you are less susceptible to burning and the risk of sunburn. But, if you are fair skinned and fair haired, caution must be practiced every time you step outdoors - regardless of the season!

So, what’s to be done? Protect yourself! For some, that will be applying a daily antioxidant and sunscreen to ward off the sun’s damaging rays and prevent burning and premature aging. For others, we may choose to wear SPF clothing, stay in the shade, or avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10 am – 2 pm. It all depends on you, your lifestyle and your skin type!

Need to treat a sunburn? Try the 100% natural Results Complex by Kosmetikos! Let Birch Bark Extract calm and soothe your red, tender skin and prevent cellular breakdown! Plus! It has Rice Bran Oil which has been shown to have UV reflective properties!

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