Herbal Sun Care

Learn how to prevent and heal damage from the sun...


| June/July 2002



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Keeping damage at bay 

When my friends and I were in our teens, we thought that sun care meant smearing on baby oil and baking for hours with foil reflectors tucked under our chins.

But I was born with pale skin—I burn after only twenty unprotected minutes in the sun. When I added baby oil, I reduced my burn time to ten minutes.

Now, hopefully not too late, sun care tops the list of my health-care concerns. Those of you with more pigment in your skin might do well to join me: Skin pigment, called melanin, may protect you from short-term sunburn discomfort, but it won’t protect you from long-term sun damage.

A lifetime of sun

Although fair-skinned people are more vulnerable to sun damage, long-term sun exposure will eventually change anyone’s skin for the worse. Spending hours in the sun, day after day, before age eighteen probably causes the most damage, according to The Merck Manual of Medical Information (Merck & Co., 1997).

A tan is a signal that your skin is trying to keep radiation, or ultraviolet rays, from being absorbed by the rest of the body. The tan occurs because the skin produces more melanin, which has a brownish color (freckles are also made of melanin). Although melanin is the body’s method of protecting itself from the sun, it’s not fool-proof. Long-term exposure to sunlight thickens the uppermost layer of the skin (epidermis). Damage to deeper layers of the skin can cause coarse wrinkles; yellow, rough, thin, or leather-tough skin; and pre-cancerous growths, called keratoses.





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