Many of us associate tanned skin with an attractive appearance and good health. In reality, tanned skin is actually damaged skin—the result of the body’s attempt to protect itself from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
When our skin is exposed to UV light, it speeds up production of a substance called melanin—a pigment that gives us our normal coloring. This additional melanin protects our skin cells from sunburn and is responsible for what we call a tan.
Even with this built-in protection, overexposure to UV light can cause sunburn, as well as skin damage that promotes premature aging and skin cancer. Sunburn damage is readily apparent because of redness, pain, and blistering. Other skin damage is less apparent—primarily because the cumulative effects appear later in life.
UV light that causes sunburn and skin damage comes from two specific wavelengths—UVA and UVB. UVA rays account for up to 95% of the UV light that reaches the earth. UVA rays penetrate our skin deeply and damage the DNA over time. This cumulative damage causes tanning and premature aging of the skin. UVB rays penetrate the top layer of our skin and cause the skin reddening and blistering we see with sunburn. Our understanding of how these two types of UV light contribute to development of different types of skin cancer is still evolving, but it seems clear that both UVA and UVB radiation play a role.
So, now you know that tanned skin is not necessarily healthy skin. You can help protect your kids from sunburn and the resulting skin damage that causes premature aging and skin cancer by having them wear a hat, sunglasses, protective clothing, and sunscreen every time they go outside—even on cloudy or hazy days.
David Todd is a Bastrop child injury attorney with the Todd Law Firm. David is committed to promoting child safety in and around Austin. In addition, he is an expert at handling child injury legal cases. If your child is injured, call 512-472-7799 for a free consultation or download a free copy of Seven Deadly Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Texas Accident Case for additional information.