Suncream may actually block the body’s natural defence against harmful UV rays, a surprising new study has found.
Scientists from Brown University, UK have discovered that human skin contains sensors that detect radiation from the sun. These light receptors – which are also found in the retina of the eye – immediately, prompt the release of melanin, the body’s own form of sun protection.
This is likely to provide rapid protection against UV damage, long before the skin starts to tan. Researchers now believe that full sunscreen blockage is not necessarily good in sun creams because they block certain wavelengths of light needed to trigger the body’s natural defences.
It is hoped that the findings, published in the journal Current Biology, will help pharmaceutical companies to develop more effective products.
The findings say that there was no prior evidence that those receptors can function in skin. The study shows that a dedicated UV receptor allows skin cells to immediately detect and respond to UV light. This protective capacity should be taken into consideration in the design and use of broad-spectrum sunscreens.
During the study human skin was exposed to light at different wavelengths. Results revealed that the light receptors, called rhodopsin, became most active under blue and UV light, prompting melanin production within seconds. Melanin is a pigment that absorbs harmful ultra violet rays to help protect the skin, as well as turning skin darker. This helps prevents the damage responsible for the formation of malignant melanoma and other skin cancers.
The research further found that human skin detects light using a mechanism similar to that used by the retina, on a timescale significantly faster than was previously known. Both the eye and skin – the only two organs constantly exposed to solar radiation – use similar molecular mechanisms to decode light.
TIPS FOR SUN SAFETY
There are a number of ways that you can prevent sunburn and stay safe while in the sun.
Wear clothing to protect your skin from UV rays, such as a long-sleeve shirt and trousers
Wear good-quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays
Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight
Use Suncream that has a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 (use a higher SPF for fair and sensitive skin), and reapply it frequently
Seek advice immediately from your GP if you notice changes to any of your moles – for example, a change in their size, colour or texture.