The effect of the sun on the anatomy and physiology of your skin

Published on 28th May 2021

Where's the sun, 2021?

Sunshine is here, at last!

After months of seemingly endless rain and grey skies, the sun has made an appearance.

It may be tempting to head out and sunbathe remorselessly, to feel the sun on your skin, and, as much as that will make you feel happy, do remember the sunscreen.

Sunshine provides us with many mood-boosting benefits. Sun exposure not only produces Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones and teeth, it is also believed to increase the brain's release of Serotonin. This hormone is said to act as a stabilising force on our moods, regulating anxiety, happiness and feelings of well-being. It also plays a part in our sleeping, eating and digestion.

Too much serotonin can result in headaches, high blood pressure, twitching muscles and shivering.

Too little serotonin can result in depression.

We do need sunshine, but we do need to look after our skin as well.

The sun takes its toll

Our skin?s response to UV light is a greater production of melanin. This is the colour pigment that causes the skin to tan. Even though this is the skin trying to protect itself from the damaging effects of  the UV light, a tan will not protect your skin from long-term damage.

Whilst our mood is lifted, the sun takes its toll on our skin.

Common damaging effects include:

  • Development of a skin cancer - basalt cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma
  • Premature ageing - the appearance of lines and wrinkles, dark age spots and less elastic, leathery skin
  • Sunburn - the skin suffers a radiation burn and will swell, become inflamed and blister. Lasting scar damage occurs.
  • Eye damage - cataracts, macular degeneration and photokeratitis can all be caused by too much sun exposure

More details of skin pathologies can be found on our ITEC Level 3 Certificate in Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology online course

It is vital for therapists who work directly onto the skin to have a good working knowledge of skin pathologies (diseases and disorders) and it is advisable to not only know their causes but to be able to recognise them visually. We have a responsibility to the public to inform them of any skin condition we notice that may need medical attention. We don't need to alarm them. Just a freindly " you might like to check out this patch of skin with your doctor" is all it needs. You can see images of different pathologies in medical text books and websites. Webmed is a good one. If you are a massage therapist or a beauty therapist or thinking of training in these disciplines our anatomy and physiology course will provide you with the knowledge of the skin that will ensure you work safely. The golden rule is if in doubt- don't. There are contra-indications to body therapies (when not to treat as we can make things worse). 

Top tips for reducing sun damage

  1. Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm as the sun's UV rays are most powerful at this time
  2. Always, always wear sunscreen (even on cloudy days)
  3. Invest in good quality sunglasses that have a category rating of 2 or above
  4. Wear UV protective clothing - long sleeved-tops, trousers and sunhat

For advice from the National Health Service on safety in the sun

Be happy, be safe!


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