UV radiation, sun and sunbeds UV radiation, sun and sunbeds
UV radiation, sun and sunbeds

Your skin may burn in the sun

Your skin may burn in the sun

Tanning is the skin's defence mechanism against ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation causes the skin to become thicker, increases pigment production and darkens the existing pigment.

If you stay in the sun too long, your skin will burn. The symptoms of burns do not appear on the skin until hours after the actual burn. A slight burn will appear as a reddening of the skin. If the skin burns badly, swelling and blistering of the skin will occur. Burning clearly increases the risk of skin cancer, especially repeated skin burns in childhood or adolescence increase the risk of melanoma. Therefore, protecting children from the sun is important.

The thin skin of babies is particularly sensitive to the sun. Because of this, exposure to excessive ultraviolet radiation during childhood is particularly harmful. The risk of developing melanoma increases if repeatedly burned as a child.

Skin cancer

In recent decades, skin cancer incidence has increased in all countries inhabited by Caucasians. This is due to changes in attitudes and leisure activities. People spend more of their free time outdoors. In addition, people travel to countries where they are exposed to more intense UV rays during the holiday seasons.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is formed on the skin by UVB radiation. In Finland, vitamin D can be obtained from the sun between April and September. However, you do not need to sunbathe in order to get vitamin D, as spending short periods in sun in the daily life is enough. Vitamin D is also available in food (fish, liquid dairy products and margarine).

According to some studies, vitamin D may protect the body against a variety of diseases, including cancers. However, it is not a good idea to stay in the sun so long that the skin burns, as repeated skin burns increase the risk of developing melanoma. Also, burning the skin is not beneficial for vitamin D formation because excessive sunlight destroys the precursor of vitamin D formed in the skin. This is nature's own defence mechanism to ensure that the prolonged sun exposure does not produce too much vitamin D.

It is advisable to stay in the sun according to your skin type tolerance in order to take advantage of the sun's beneficial effect on vitamin D formation, while minimizing the risk of skin burns. People can be divided into different skin types according to how well the skin can withstand the sun.


Intense UVB radiation from the sun can cause inflammation of the cornea of the eye, also called snow blindness. UVB damages the corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells of the eye. Symptoms include redness of the conjunctiva, photosensitivity, increased tearing, and pain. Symptoms appear after a couple of hours of UV exposure. Due to the rapid renewal of the cells in the eye’s epithelial layers, the symptoms disappear within a few days.

Abundant and prolonged exposure to sunlight can also cause slowly developing clouding in the lens of the eye. The damage eventually results in cataracts.

The skin will tan and wrinkle due to UV radiation

Tanned skin has been mistakenly regarded as a sign of health and well-being. In fact, tanning is a way for the skin to defend itself against the harmful effects of UV radiation. The natural defences, tanning and thickening of the skin, happen when the skin is gradually getting used to the sun. However, continuous tan throughout the year is not recommended as it increases the risk of squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma.

The burning of the skin, tanning ability and the duration of the tan are influenced by the base colour of the skin, the time of sun exposure and the intensity of UV radiation. If you can stay in the sun only for half an hour without sunburn in Finland, in southern Europe, where the ultraviolet radiation is stronger, you will get burned in a much shorter time. For a sensitive, untanned skin ten minutes in intense sunlight may be too much. People with sensitive skin should be gentle on their skin.

Abundant sun exposure prematurely ages the skin. The skin thickens, sags and wrinkles. The skin looks older than its age. The skin does not forget the UV radiation it receives, so the effects of the radiation accumulate in the skin's memory throughout the life.

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