Can the sun change your skin color permanently?

A look at how sun exposure affects your skin

There is a chance that this can occur when the skin is sunburnt so much that you have severe skin damage. The damage will heal with scarring and will look like a dark patch. Over time this skin will develop hyperpigmentation. The sun helps you produce Vitamin D, and it feels great to get a bit of sunlight. Just know that there are tradeoffs to sun exposure. The longer you’re in the sun, the more damage your skin gets, and it can lead to wrinkles, a weathered appearance, and blemishes.

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Why does skin darken in the sun?

Sun Exposure and Skin Pigmentation

When the sun shines on your skin, it warms the body and destroys melanin as well. But because your skin is alive, it can react to the sun’s damage. Your skin cells produce more melanin, turning your skin darker. Although it is genetically predetermined sometimes skin color is categorized as black, red, yellow or white, although nobody’s skin is actually any of these colors. Our skin color lies somewhere on a range of shades from very dark brown to almost pink. It changes throughout our lives because of sun exposure and other factors like diseases etc.Deliberate sun exposure can lead to an evenly bronzed look popular with celebrities, but it can also cause freckles on nose or all over your face. It’s no coincidence that redheads, typically bearers of the fairest skin of them all, are prone to developing freckles since their skin is very sensitive to the sun’s rays. Many people bask in the sunshine not to get vitamin D, but to get a tan.

Skin color as a form of adaptation

Researchers believe that a clear correlation exists between where your ancestors inhabited and skin color. In sunnier, hotter places, darker skin was more beneficial because it protected the body from UV rays. As people migrated to colder, less sunny places, dark skin prevented the skim from producing enough vitamin D production, which in turn led to rickets and death. Skin pigmentation can be an adaptation to past migration, but in a way, humans continue to adapt; this time by making sure we take in only the proper amount of sunlight, regardless of our skin color and ancestry.

So how does sun damage cause the skin to darken?

Skin darkening is a two-step process. First, our skin cells undergo the “immediate darkening” response when exposed to the sun. This occurs because of UVB or ultraviolet type B radiation.This is a fast response that happens over a period of minutes to days. It is not as noticeable in lighter skinned people as it is with darker skinned people. The second and slower reaction of our skin cells to sunlight is called “delayed tanning.” As the term suggests, it is much slower. This delayed response also referred to as melanogenesis happens when our skin is exposed to UVA radiation.Melanogenesis refers to the process of cutaneous cells ramping up to make more melanin. This in part means that more melanocytes get produced. Also, the melanin genes start producing more melanin so that these melanocytes are darker, resulting in darker skin. Strangely, the sun does not directly cause more melanin to get made. When the sun burns a skin cell, the cell discharges chemicals alerting the body that it has taken a hit. These chemicals trigger the generation of more melanocytes, and more melanin is made.

Sun exposure and Pigmentation conditions

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Too much sun exposure is not good as no one wants to have leathery, snake-like skin. But that’s only one side effect of allowing UV rays to attack your body. Too much sun exposure can cause:

Cancer – The three most prevalent forms of skin cancer can be traced to sun damage, and all three are on the rise. They are: 

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Age Spots – they are skin blemishes that can indicate a risk of skin cancer. Actinic keratoses – these are rough, scaly, discolored patches of skin that don’t go away. Sometimes, these patches may evolve into squamous cell carcinomas.

So can sun exposure change my skin color permanently?

It is not that the sun will change your skin color forever. It all depends on the melanin secreted by your skin. The skin color is a mere adaptation of the skin to the surrounding. If you brought a fair-skinned person to a sunny country, to guard the skin, more melanin would be produced. This pigment is responsible for the color change, often referred to as a tan. If they were to return home to a less sunny place the pigmentation would reduce as the extra melanin is not needed.

What sun components cause skin damage?

The sunlight that reaches us is made up of two kinds of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). UVB burns your skin cells, causing tanning, but it also aids in the production of Vitamin D. UVA penetrates deeper into your skin and can cause more long-term damage to your skin like wrinkles and sun spots. UVB rays are shortwave, and thus their intensity varies by season, location and time of day, with 10 AM to 2 PM being the peak hours. Meanwhile, since our atmosphere doesn’t do a good job of filtering out UVA rays, their intensity remains relatively even throughout the day.All this means that you have a greater chance of tanning and burning (producing Vitamin D) in the middle of the day, and it will take less time during the middle of the day to get red, tan, and burn. But throughout the whole day, you are sustaining UVA damage. Most experts advice avoiding sun exposure around midday, as this is when the sunlight reaching us has its highest UV rays levels. 

Sun exposure and Vitamin D

Most people get a modest amount of Vitamin D from fortified foods. And if you are concerned about not be getting enough, try taking a Vitamin D supplement. If you’re trying to produce Vitamin D the conventional way (and natural way), it’s best to do it by exposing as much of your skin as possible in the middle of the day for a very short period. In this way, you can be guaranteed that you are maximizing your production of Vitamin D (by optimizing your UVB exposure during the time of day when the levels are highest, and also by allowing UVB rays to contact as much of your body as possible) but still minimize your total sun exposure.

Why do we even need this coloring? 

Melanin pigment helps guard your skin and hair by filtering out potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Special skin cells, called melanocytes, make two different kinds of melanin, eumelanin, and pheomelanin. Eumelanin has a brown or black shade while pheomelanin is yellowish-red. The amount of each kind of melanin we make determines the exact shade of our skin and hair.  The UV light from the sun can degrade DNA and induce cancer. This is one reason why our body blackens the skin when exposed to the sun to protect us.

How to prevent sun damage

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The best thing to do is to apply a lotion with an SPF-15 or higher whenever you go out in the day even on cloudy days. The UVA/UVB rays continue to shine through causing damage. Buy a day cream with SPF in it. On days when you are out in the sun a lot apply sunscreen, wear a hat with sunglasses to protect the eyes.

Make sure to eat foods that heal skin like:

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids from nuts, chia seeds, coconut oil, etc.
  • Vitamin A from Carrots/Juice and whole, leafy greens, Red/Orange fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin E from sunflower seeds, almonds, nuts, etc.
  • Vitamin C from citrus fruits, green and red bell peppers, strawberries and kale, etc.

At night – after cleansing apply a thin layer of extra virgin coconut oil on damp skin to help the skin heal and clear blemishes. Only a little is needed, and if too much is applied you could block the pores, and this will create acne. Vitamin E Oil is also excellent for reducing spots and healing damaged skin – you might want to alternate between the two.Once a week: To lighten these dark patches. After cleansing, apply one tablespoon of lemon juice to the skin and let it dry – it takes about 10 minutes. Wash off and put on some coconut oil as a night cream. Lemon juice can cause skin dryness and makes the skin photosensitive so use it at night and not too often. Water: Damaged skin is normally dehydrated. Drink about 8 glasses of water daily. You can make fruit infused water for variation.

When to see a doctor

If you notice any darkening mark, bump, blemish, etc, that is changing, growing, or bleeding, immediately see your doctor. It may be skin cancer. Skin cancer is often treatable when it’s detected early.Also, speak to your doctor about any medications that you may be taking. Some antibiotics, antidepressants, and diabetes medications can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Some topical medications like Retin-A, can make your skin very sensitive and cause it to burn easily. If you use any of these treatments, ask your doctor how you can protect your skin from the sun.

How to tighten skin?

To make our skin tighter, eat healthily, exfoliate your skin, limit UV exposure, and use

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