UV Radiation and Oxidative Stress

Sunlight brings substantial benefits to your body, but the only way to make the most of themis to increase your exposure to the sun gradually and to do it with the proper precautions, so as to prevent possible risks.

First and foremost, sun exposure boosts the production of vitamin D, which plays a key role in the mineralisation of bones, since it contributes to regulating the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Ultraviolet radiation promotes the synthesis of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) starting from dehydrocholesterol, a provitamin found in the skin. Such vitamin is not only important for the growth and development of the bones – it also has a modulating effect on the immune response. Correct sun exposure (which implies using sunscreen and avoiding the hottest parts of the day) can provide the body with 80% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
It is important to note that UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, which means that the exposure in question takes place outdoors or while sitting in front of an open window. 

In addition to getting our skin tanned, sunlight also stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine, two endogenous (i.e. originating within our body) neurotransmitters which acts as “antidepressants”. The right concentration of these neurotransmitters improves your mood and regulates your sleep patterns. 

Lastly, sun exposure can relieve rheumatic pains and stimulate the production of antioxidant and protective substances in the skin, while at the same time triggering a filtering reaction against the UV radiation itself (which means that, while tanning, the skin partially starts to protect itself). 

Our overview on sun exposure and tanning wouldn’t be complete without making any reference to the skin typing (or phototyping) scale. As most people know, there are six different skin types (or phototypes), each of which is associated with a specific set of reactions in case of sun exposure, the most visible one being the ability to tan. 

A person’s skin type cannot always be determined based on their eye and hair colour and their complexion; for instance, there are people with dark hair and eyes and a very light skin which sunburn very easily and others with a dark complexion who have light-coloured eyes and dark blond hair – which implies that complexion plays a greater role than other factors in classifying someone’s phototype. However, we can claim that generally phototype I is the most sensitive one; skin type I individuals have a very fair complexion, blue eyes and red or blonde hair and, since their skin only produces a small amount of pigment, it cannot protect itself properly from UV radiation. Moreover, also phototype III, which is the most common one in the Western countries, is vulnerable to sunburns, so persons with this skin type must protect themselves adequately to prevent the harmful effects of sun radiation.

As mentioned before, it is indeed crucial to increase your exposure to the sun gradually and to do it with the proper precautions. As you probably know, sunlight consists of UVA and UVB radiation; whereas the former promotes the ageing and the morphological changes of the skin (along with the passing of time, of course) and increases the risk of developing skin cancer, the latter causes acute reactions such as rashes, sunburns, photosensitivity reactions as well as superficial inflammations. During sun exposure, it is essential to protect our skin to prevent such harmful effects, which are due to a chain of biochemical reactions triggered by UV radiation, e.g. theformation of free radicals, which are responsible for oxidative stress and therefore for premature skin ageing.

As a matter of fact, when skin is not properly protected and therefore damaged by UV radiation, it will try to protect itself from the harmful effects of sunlight: the outer layers will thicken in the attempt of creating a barrier against UVA rays, thus losing their elasticity and their ability to renew themselves. Their ultimate goal is to prevent the state of oxidative stress, which is caused by free radicals and is associated with accelerating ageing.

What are free radicals? They are highly reactive molecules or atoms containing at least one unpaired electron in their outer orbitals (usually they form pairs). This peculiarity makes them extremely instable, which means they will try to “steal” the missing electron so as to neutralise their electromagnetic polarity and achieve a state of balance. Such mechanism produces new instable molecules and triggers a chain reaction that, if not stopped in time, will end up damaging the cell structures. Free radicals are also naturally generated in cellular biochemical reactions, mainly in those that use oxygen for energy production, as well as under the influence of external factors, such as the exposure to sun’s rays. This means that UV radiation, by sparking the chain reaction described above, gives rise to a series of degenerative processes – which do not only inhibit the synthesis of elastin and collagen, but also accelerate their degradation, trigger inflammations, weaken the local immune defences, increase pigment production and stimulate uncontrolled cell proliferation. In short, exposure to UV radiation and the free radicals generated by it can cause genetic mutations which in turn increase the risk of developing skin cancer. 

A good mix of common sense (i.e. avoiding going out in the sun in the hottest hours of the day), external protection (sunscreen) and internal protection (food supplements) is the key to turning the sun into our ally during the summer, without any worry about its possible consequences on your health. 

The Long Life Formula scientific method, devised by Lucia Magnani, aims at combating oxidative stress and its effects in terms of cellular ageing and overall health. 

Explore the Long Life Formula programmes to improve your health and reach your inner balance