The Sun – our best frenemy

Hello to all our readers from the sunny beaches all around the world! For those of you that wish to spend a nice, relaxing summer vacation, sun-bathing, swimming and drinking mojitos on the beach, we bring you this article about how to stay safe and how to customise your protection according to your skin phenotype.

Our collaborator, Adrien Besseiche that brought you “The first 1000 days of life” is returning to the writting board with an estival article about our best friend-enemy (or frenemy) – The SUN!

Beach time!

During summer, everyone aspires to a place in the sun to enjoy the feeling of warmth and well-being, spread by visible and infrared rays. If the sun is essential to life, allowing us to synthesize vitamin D, it is also a danger that we often underestimate.

There are a lot of scientifically proven beneficial and harmful effects that the sun brings us. In this article we want to let you know about somt good advice to protect yourself from the harmfull effects of the sun and to help you identify your skin type so that you will be able to spend a safe sunny summer.

You need the sun

The sun sends us and our planet many different radiation such as infrared (IR), visible light rays, cosmic rays, ultraviolet (UV), etc. The rays in the visible spectra give colors to things that receive this light and the IR rays are responsible for the sensation of heat. UV radiation on the other hand is categorized into three groups:  UVA, UVB and UVC.

These UV rays can be harmful and, in some cases they are responsible for sunburn, skin aging, cataracts and some cancers. When the clouds are between us and the sun, they strongly attenuate the IR and visible light explaining the decline in brightness and freshness sensation. In contrast, the thing with UVs is that they are imperceptible and are hardly stopped by the atmosphere or by the clouds.

The sun still has known benefits. Visible light affects your biological rhythms. It penetrates the retina and reaches the brain via the optic nerve which will trigger the increase in the production of melatonin, also knows as the “sleep hormone” which synchronizes the rhythms of your body, allowing you to be active during the day and to sleep at night.

Within reasonable limits, UVs participate in the consolidation of your bone structure. Without them, your bones would not be able to fix the calcium, because UVs allow the synthesis of vitamin D which then binds calcium in the bones. Thus, UVs protect you against rickets and osteoporosis and small doses are even prescribed by dermatologists to treat psoriasis and vitiligo.

Treat UVs with precaution

If a few minutes of exposure to UVs are enough to enjoy the benefits of the sun, prolonged sunbathing can be hazardeous: sunstroke, sunburn, photosensitivity of the skin under the effect of drugs, creams or perfumes. The sun therefore has also adverse effects.

Even if they are not the most dangerous, visible light rays affect the eyes and are the cause of age-related macular degenertion or AMD. Therefore, whatever your tolerance to the sun or the frequency of your exhibitions, always wear sunglasses to protect the cornea and retina.

Risks of UV exposure

UVs are the most dangerous radiation that come from the sun!

Clouds and their ability to filter these rays are misleading. Indeed, only large dark storm clouds reflect 100% of UV and when these clouds are present, we are not at the beach! Clouds only filter 30% to 70% of UVs. It is therefore necessary for you to protect.

UVSeven phototypes, i.e. seven types of skin have been developed based on the level of melanin that we produce. Melanin is the main organic pigment responsible for coloring the skin, hair and iris of the eyes. The color variations that we observe depend mainly on the type of melanin and its concentration. The main role of melanin is to provide a pigmental protection against UV radiation. The table below describes the seven skin types and specific advice related. exposure are accelerated skin aging and increased cancer rates for the development of carcinomas or melanomas.

Melanomas are the most serious UV-induced cancer and result from intense exposure to the sun for short periods : repeated sunburn on a specific area, especially during childhood, greatly increase the risk of cancer. We discussed the fact that the incidence of melanoma in the last years has DOUBLED worldwide. You can find the full story here.

We are not equal in the eyes of the sun


Table 1. Skin phenotypes and description of their characteristics, means and need for protection from the sun


Advice for your whole family to follow daily

  1. The first important thing is to not rely on either temperature or heat sensation, but rather on time: between noon and 4 pm, the sun is at his upmost position and therefore the radiation is the strongest. It is advisable not to expose yourself during this period or, if you have to, wear large hats, white clothes and sunglasses.
  2. For those who love water sports there are anti-UV clothes and that can be very effective.
  3. Also do not forget your sunglasses (index 3 or 4) and your sunscreen, which you’ll chose according to your skin phenotype. Sunscreens are often misused and contribute to increase the risk of melanoma in those who think they are protected. Do not forget that you need to apply your cream every 2 hours and systematically after every swim.
  4. Finally, after a day of sun exposure, you must monitor your skin, moisturize thoroughly to avoid flaking. Also remember to check your moles because the sun can change their look and precipitate cancer : 20% of melanomas occur from a mole.

Adrien and the pharmacists,

If you liked our article and you wish to contribute or to find out more about how you can protect yourself from UVs and how to have a safe and healthy summer vacation, don’t hesitate to write to us, like us on facebook, twitter and Pinterest and subscribe to our newsletter to get the best advice for a smart and healthy life!

Sources :

The Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Journal)

French Society of Dermatology (SFD)

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (Journal)

Dr J-F. Doré; INSERM, Dr C. Blanchet-Bardon, Prof. G. Renard; French Society of Ophthalmology (SFO)


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