The skin is the largest organ of our body. It has a complex structure and performs many functions, such as protecting us from the cold or heat (Yousef, 2021). Nonetheless, it is more sensitive than you might think, and the sun’s rays can seriously damage it. Luckily, we have photoprotection. Do you know what it is?
Before answering this question, let’s see why the sun can affect our skin (Polefka, 2012; Shin, 2020):
- Solar rays are made up of different components, some of which is ultraviolet radiation.
- Of these, the most important are types A and B (also called UVA and UVB, respectively).
- Also, ultraviolet radiation can age and damage our skin.
- It does this by oxidising skin cells, breaking them down, or even preventing them from repairing themselves properly.
Over time, the sun’s rays can be responsible for skin complications, including cancer.
So, what is photoprotection of the skin? Did you know, you can reduce the damage caused by the sun to your skin, we will tell you everything here.
Importance of photoprotection, how can you protect your skin?
Photoprotection or sun protection consists of using a series of methods (creams, umbrellas, lenses, among others) that filter the amount of UV radiation reaching our skin. Protection can be achieved as follows (CDC, 2022; Guan, 2021):
- In the case of creams, they incorporate pigments that can reflect, absorb or deflect radiation.
- The less UV radiation reaches the skin, the less damaged it will be.
- On the other hand, shadows are spaces where less solar radiation reaches.
- In addition, it is advisable to avoid the hours with the greatest intensity of the sun’s rays.
Therefore, photoprotection avoids sunburn and slows down the photoaging of our skin (Guan, 2021).
Photoaging of the skin and menopause
Photoaging consists of signs of aging, such as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, dry skin, and others, mainly related to sunlight (Bosch, 2015). In a lifetime, women can accumulate a lot of skin damage due to the sun (Rittié, 2015).
Nevertheless, the signs of photoaging may not become noticeable until menopause. It happens because of the following factors. (Lankenau Medical Center, 2017; Thornton, 2013; Yoon, 2014):
- During the menstrual cycle, hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone are released.
- These hormones perform many functions in the body, including protecting the skin by helping to produce collagen.
- In menopause, these hormones decrease, so skin protection is lost.
- Due to this, the accumulated affectation can begin to be noticed in the form of photoaging. Keep in mind that the appearance of signs of photoaging can be different among women in the menopausal stage.
Photoprotection of the skin is essential before, during, and after menopause.
Photoprotection: tips for before, during, and after menopause
Although UV radiation’s damage caused to the skin is quite significant, we have different ways to protect ourselves from it. Here we give you some tips (CDC, 2022; Mayo Clinic, 2020; MedlinePlus, 2021):
- Try to wear clothing that protects as much of your skin as possible.
- The glare can seriously affect your eyes. Try to wear dark glasses in strong sunlight.
- Hats also ensure shade on the face, a part of the skin that you don’t want the sun to affect.
- Make the shadows & shade your friend during the day. When you are outdoors, look for sites protected from sunlight.
- Try to avoid the sun at times of greatest exposure (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- It’s vital to stay hydrated, so try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day.
- Sunscreens will be your best protection, whether in creams or lotions.
- Apply a good amount on the face and the parts of your body exposed to the sun.
- The sun protection factor (SPF) shows the protection power of the sunscreen.
- In this sense, the higher the SPF, the greater the protection provided by the filter.
- Remember that a thick layer of a filter with lower SPF is better than the opposite case.
Now you know everything about photoprotection: what it is, why it matters and how the sun might affect you. Then, it is worth remembering that, in menopause, your skin is more sensitive to the damage caused by the sun. To avoid this damage, we recommend that you follow the tips above.
Bosch, R., Philips, N., Suárez-Pérez, J. A., Juarranz, A., Devmurari, A., Chalensouk-Khaosaat, J., & González, S. (2015). Mechanisms of Photoaging and Cutaneous Photocarcinogenesis, and Photoprotective Strategies with Phytochemicals. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 4(2), 248–268. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox4020248
CDC. (2022). Sun Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm
Guan, L. L., Lim, H. W., & Mohammad, T. F. (2021). Sunscreens and Photoaging: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. doi:10.1007/s40257-021-00632-5
Lankenau Medical Center. (2017). Fight back against Skin Changes during Menopause. Main Line Health. https://www.mainlinehealth.org/blog/skin-changes-during-menopause
Mayo Clinic. (2020). How much Water do you Need to Stay Healthy? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
MedlinePlus. (2021). Sun Protection. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000378.htm
Polefka, T. G., Meyer, T. A., Agin, P. P., & Bianchini, R. J. (2012). Effects of Solar Radiation on the Skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 11(2), 134–143. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2012.00614.x
Rittié, L., & Fisher, G. J. (2015). Natural and Sun-induced Aging of Human Skin. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine, 5(1), a015370. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a015370
Shin D. W. (2020). Various Biological Effects of Solar Radiation on Skin and their Mechanisms: Implications for Phototherapy. Animal Cells and Systems, 24(4), 181–188. https://doi.org/10.1080/19768354.2020.1808528
Thornton M. J. (2013). Estrogens and Aging Skin. Dermato-endocrinology, 5(2), 264–270. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.23872
Yoon, H., Lee, S., & Chung, J. (2014). Long-term Topical Oestrogen Treatment of Sun-exposed Facial Skin in Post-menopausal Women Does Not Improve Facial Wrinkles or Skin Elasticity, but Induces Matrix Metalloproteinase-1 Expression. Acta Dermato Venereologica, 94(1), 4–8. doi:10.2340/00015555-1614
Yousef, H., Alhajj, M., & Sharma, S. (2021). Anatomy, Skin (Integument), Epidermis. En StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470464/