Skin protection

Why is it necessary?

The skin is the first protective barrier against adverse weather conditions. Abrupt weather changes in seasons and the weather affect your skin due to abundant sunshine, dry air, high temperatures, seawater, summer breeze, dehumidification caused by air conditioners, switching from warm to cold.

As a result of these adverse external conditions, there is an increased excretion of sebum and sweat which creates preconditions for the propagation of various pathogenic microorganisms which may cause inflammation.

The damaged water-lipid envelope also leads to further water loss and skin dehydration. As a result, we can notice skin drying, thickening, more wrinkles, small red spots. Elderly people even receive brown spots on the unprotected skin areas.

It is very important to be aware how solar radiation affects the skin.

There are different types of rays reaching the Earth’s surface, but those who have an influence on the skin are short wave ultraviolet B rays and longwave ultraviolet A rays [9]. This solar radiation causes so-called direct damage – sunburn, which occurs immediately or a few hours or days after sun exposure. They may lead to long-term damages, which include skin cancer, pre-cancerous lesions, and premature aging.

Under the influence of the two types of UV radiation free radicals are formed in the skin. These free radicals have a tendency to attack the skin cells. When a skin cell is attacked repeatedly over the years, it begins to divide improperly and this division can become the basis of skin cancer.

Skin Memory

This is a very long process that results in 15-20 years. If once we get irradiated by the harmful solar radiation, cancer [3] will not appear immediately. Also, we have to be subjected to this radiation his many times over the years – and when the same skin cells are attacked by free radicals.

Dermatologists claim that the skin has a memory to the sun’s harmful rays because it probably remembers each sunburn from early childhood. [1]

The other effect of sunburn is the premature aging process. Under the action of UV-A rays into the deeper skin layers, the integrity and quality of elastin and collagen are affected. These keep the skin fresh and stretched. Under the influence of the sun, the skin quality is lowered and the aging process is fastened. It is considered that about a month spent without skin protection under the action of sunlight we will appear to be 6 months older than we actually are.

What are the specific causes of skin cancer?

In recent years, the statistics are extremely alarming that the media has a tendency to talk about the sun damage. On the one hand, the reason is the abuse of the sun, but also a change in the weather – ozone depletion.

The cases of skin cancer have increased dramatically in recent years. In 80-85% of them, specialists determine that the sun or solariums are the most probable reasons. The incidence of skin cancer has increased twice compared to the past decade. One of the most common skin cancers, which is associated with the sun, is melanoma. It is one of the most aggressive human cancers because of its rapid metastasis and high mortality rate.

Patient at increased risk for cutaneous melanoma
f10-dp0203a06: Patient at increased risk for cutaneous melanoma with history of previous melanoma, hundreds of nevi, and multiple atypical nevi (e.g., asymmetry, color variegation). A long-term surveillance for early detection of melanoma is indicated. [Copyright: ©2012 Brehmer et al.]Source:
Still, when we are talking about the sun, we cannot go to extremes. We cannot avoid going out during the day. For each skin type, there is a certain dose of solar radiation that is not detrimental. The presence of skin moles and the genetic predisposition are also important factors.

What is the proper application of sunscreen products?

It is important to be aware that there are various topical ointments, creams, and lotions that protect the skin from the harmful effects of solar radiation, but not 100%. Usually, there is a false perception that, if people apply high SPF products several times a day, they are completely protected. Unfortunately, this is false because SPF products are secondary protection from the sun. Clothes, hats, and sunglasses are the protection we should count the most.

Of course, high-quality medical cosmetics also have a major role in protecting the skin. But you have to be careful because not all cosmetics sold in pharmacies provide high-quality protection. Consumers should know what to monitor.

what to have in mind before choosing such product?

Usually, the quality of a sun-protection product is determined by the so-called SPF factor. It is a measure of the degree of protection against ultraviolet B rays that is provided after proper application. For example – a cream with SPF 15 protects us 93% of UVB-rays. A product with SPF 30 protects us from 97% of them.

Sunscreen Application
Two photographs of a man wearing sunscreen (spf 50) on one half of his face, in visible light (left) and ultraviolet light (UV-A, 340-355nm) (right). The sunscreen on the right side (your left) of his face absorbs ultraviolet, making that side appear darker in the UV picture.

Very often, SPF factors do not offer protection against the A rays. These rays are the ones causing skin aging as well as skin cancer. This idea the reason why it is very important for customers to read carefully and seek for products providing with protection against both types of rays.

As mentioned above, the proper application is also very important. The SPF product should be applied at least 20 minutes before you expose your skin to the sun because it takes the time to create a protective film on it. Otherwise, you will spend particular time without any protection from the sun. Also, the SPF product should be reapplied every two hours (if you have your body submerged in water or sweat more because of the high temperatures, the SPF product should be reapplied every 40 minutes).

You should never forget to apply the product on your ear clams, neck and scalp- these are the locations that are the most prone to skin cancer.

There are various myths and misconceptions among patients regarding the skin health and sun exposure. One of these misconceptions is that moles, which can develop skin cancer, should not be removed. But the truth is that if there is a mole, which is often exposed to the sun and also suitable for removal, such procedure should be done as soon as possible.

Several studies have demonstrated that the use of sun-protective wear can decrease the number of moles and pre-malignant lesions. Additionally, patients are advised to perform frequent skin examinations and get complete examinations from healthcare professionals on a routine basis.

Moreover, if a mole is changing color or increasing in size, one should seek medical attention. Although sunscreens can prevent sunburn, there has never been any epidemiological or laboratory evidence that they prevent either melanoma or basal cell carcinoma in humans. [2]

There is also a wrong perception claiming that when we are in the water, our skin is protected. On the contrary – part of the ultraviolet rays passes a meter or two below the water surface so the harmful effects cannot even be doubted.

Another myth is wearing white clothes would protect your skin from sun damage. According to Skin Cancer Foundation:

„As a rule, light-colored, lightweight and loosely woven fabrics do not offer much protection from the sun… The easiest way to test if a fabric can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it – and your skin.” [4]

It is also important to know that the sun is much more dangerous for children because just like all organs and systems in children, the skin is not yet fully developed. The protective function of the skin and melanogenesis are not fully formed in children. The top layer of the child’s skin is twice thinner than adults’. All these features double the harmful effects of the sun on their skin. Moreover, you should remember that the skin has a memory for sunburn from earliest childhood. When the genetic material of the same cell is repeatedly attacked within 15-20 years cancer is very likely to develop.

If child’ skin is burned to a phase of blisters development in the same area three or four times during childhood, there is a doubled possibility for the cells to degenerate.

Therefore it is recommended not to expose in the sun children below three years of age.

We must be extremely careful because nothing can neutralize the negative effect of sunburns in early childhood. The skin has a memory of the sun’s harmful rays so it is very important to apply sunscreens regularly.

Home remedies for sunburns


Good old potato is a great analgesic. Take two potatoes [5], wash them, cut them into small cubes and blend. Carefully rub the affected areas with the blended potatoes. If the mixture is very dry, you can add some cool water to it. Another method is to put the blended potatoes in a gauze, inserting the compress on the burned areas.

Aloe Vera

Thick juice of aloe [6] can relieve redness and burning sensation. Aloe causes constriction of blood vessels. The medicinal plant can easily be found. Cut one leaf and apply the gel directly on the affected area. If you repeat the procedure several times a day, your skin will heal within 1-2 days.

If you cannot find fresh aloe leaves, you can also apply products containing aloe vera in order to help your skin heal faster. Be careful not to use lotions or creams that have any of these ingredients: petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. Things with petroleum trap the heat in your skin and benzocaine and lidocaine can irritate your skin. If a particular area feels really bad, you may want to apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription.

Baking soda

Mix 2 tbsp of baking soda [7] and water to make a paste. Apply the mixture on the affected area with a cotton pad and Leave it on for 5 – 10 minutes, Wash the area with cool water. Repeat the same procedure as often as possible.


Gently apply a layer of yogurt [10] on the affected areas with a cotton pad. Leave it for about 10-20 minutes or until it dries completely. Gently rinse it off with cool water and re-apply the yogurt at least 2 times a day until your skin heals completely.

Honey and lemon juice

Honey [8] combined with fresh lemon juice also has an extremely beneficial antibacterial and softening the effect. Mix 2 tablespoons honey with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and apply the mixture on the affected area. After 20-30 minutes rinse with cold water. Re-apply the same mixture at least once daily.


    UVB Radiation Preferentially Induces Recruitment of Memory CD4+ T Cells in Normal Human Skin: Long-Term Effect After a Single Exposure
    Could Sunscreens Increase Melanoma Risk?
    Sunscreens, skin photobiology, and skin cancer: the need for UVA protection and evaluation of efficacy.
    Which Fabrics Are Best?
    First-aid Home Treatment of Burns Among Children and Some Implications at Milas, Turkey
    The efficacy of Aloe vera, tea tree oil and saliva as first aid treatment for partial thickness burn injuries
    Traditional Practices, “Folk Remedies,” and the Western Biomedical Model: Bridging the Divide,  Case 1: Hypernatremic Metabolic Alkalosis Secondary to Use of Baking Soda as a Home Remedy
    Results of a survey on the use of different treatment options for partial and full thickness burns
    Potential of Honey in the Treatment of Wounds and Burns
    Ultraviolet Waves
    First-aid home treatment of burns among children and some implications at Milas, Turkey.
Skin protection
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Skin protection
Under the influence of the two types of UV radiation free radicals are formed in the skin. These free radicals have a tendency to attack the skin cells. When a skin cell is attacked repeatedly over the years, it begins to divide improperly and this division can become the basis of skin cancer.
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About the author

Monika Hristova

Monika is the Editor-in-Chief at SkinPractice. She is a skin care addict and researcher, who feels strongly about helping people with different dermatology conditions from alopecia to warts.

You can read her recommendations and advice both here at SkinPractice or at Quora where she answers skincare-related questions frequently and is the most viewed author in the Skincare category with more than 3 million views or follow her on LinkedIn.

She is also a certified skin care specialist with certification from the Medical College in Sofia.

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