As summer approaches, many people will start working on their suntan, trying to lose their winter pallor. But what do we really know about tanning and how does sunscreen work? When we are exposed to the Sun, our skin darkens due to an increase in the production of a pigment called melanin. This pigment is produced to protect the skin by minimising the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Some exposure to sunlight is important to help our body synthesize vitamin D, which plays an important role in maintaining correct calcium levels in the body. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but rather a family of five fat-soluble steroid compounds, named vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. Vitamins D2 and D3 are the most common forms of vitamin D; vitamin D3 is produced in response to skin exposure to UVB light.
We must always be careful about how much time we spend in the sunlight, as exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the effects of ageing and increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Health experts advise that we should avoid over-exposure to the sunlight and take measures, including covering up with clothing, wearing sunglasses and a hat and, of course, using sunscreen, which reduces the amount of UV radiation that reaches our skin.