Tans, Sunburns, and the New FDA Regulations on Sunscreens

October 21, 2015

What is a Tan?

Before one goes out to catch some rays, it is important to understand what a tan is. Not all tans are the same, and proper knowledge of what a tan really is will help you understand why you get sunburned. Tanning is the skins way of protecting itself from Ultra Violet rays. Additionally, different skin types have different levels of tolerance to sun exposure. The ability of protection is determined by how much pigment (called melanin) your skin can make and how quickly the skin produces it. Melanin is contained in small granules that form and are contained in your skin cells. The pigment produced provides you with the familiar tan color. The creation of melanin does offer a minute benefit of sun protection. Melanin granules are spread out over the top of the living skin layers where the skin has been exposed to UV rays. It is important to understand that even generous layers of Melanin pigments in your skin offer very little protection from the sun and take quite some time to build up.

What is Sunburn?

Sunburn is a normal reaction to overexposure to UV rays by our skin. It is the skin’s way of warning us of the cascade of events that begin with prolonged exposure to UV rays. Again, it is important to understand what kind of skin you have and the tolerance levels that come with your skin. Sunburns are caused by both UVA and UVB rays. However UVB rays are the major perpetrator of the painful effects of extreme sun exposure.

UVB and UVA Rays' Role in Sunburn 

The intensity of UVB rays varies throughout the year and in accordance to where you are located in the world. It is important to know when UVB rays are at their strongest according to your location. UVB rays are strongest during the middle of the day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. One common fact about UVB rays is that they reflect off materials such as sand, snow and penetrate water.