Immune Response to Sun Exposure
Proper immune system health can give a much stronger chance to battle any type of disease or unhealthy attack. This premise can be applied to the skin vs. sun. Sunscreen, thought to be the best protection for some of the sun’s harmful UV rays, does not allow the skin to fight its own battles and gain the healthy rays from the sun. Therefore, sunscreen will leave the skin weaker when in the sun without sunscreen. This creates a dependency on sunscreen because the negative reaction will become worse as you continue to weaken the skin. Since the skin becomes “out of practice,” it adapts to wearing sunscreen in the sun, and will be devastatingly vulnerable when there is a lapse in routine. Our skin can be naturally trained to combat the harmful effects of unprotected sun exposure.
Building a strong immune system is important to maintaining the body’s overall health for the long term. The University of Maryland Health Systems made a post on how to boost the immune system. The article recommends healthy living habits like regular exercise and a healthy diet. In addition to a strong living strategy, supplements like vitamins and probiotics, all listed in UMD’s article, will boost the immune system making it stronger rather than using certain medicine to replace the immune systems function. This is the best way to prepare the body for any type of personal health crisis. Probiotics and vitamins act as “personal trainers.” They feed the body and micro exercise it in a way. This is not the can in medications which will replace the immune system’s function, in turn allowing it to grow weak. Similar to someone going to the gym to work out on your behalf while you sit at home.
Another way the immune system can become strong is through experience. Just like any physical sport, to improve as a player one must practice and train the body. Practicing creates a muscle memory that is ready to perform when the opportunity arises. Of course through practice and training, in the beginning, the body will be sore and achy, but when continuing to train, the body will adapt and strengthen, ridding the body of the soreness. This sports example directly relates to the way an human immune system works. When someone grows sick via a virus, the immune system will learn about that virus and practice different methods of fighting it. Once health is improved, it’s understood that the immune system has found an effective battle technique that’ll keep that training experience in mind for whenever the virus may try to reappear. Sharon Reynolds, writer of Lasting Immunity found after recovery from Covid-19, has proven this theory in her study of Covid-19 immunity. In the article, she explains that people who have been infected and recovered from Covid-19 show high levels of immunity through antibodies from the virus in the following months. Reynolds says, “After people recover from infection with a virus, the immune system retains a memory of it. Immune cells and proteins that circulate in the body can recognize and kill the pathogen if it’s encountered again, protecting against disease and reducing illness severity.”
When the skin experiences the sun’s rays, Melanin is produced. Melanin, which is what pigments skin, is the skin’s natural protection against the sun’s harmful rays. In an article by Heather L. Brannon called How Melanocytes Defend Your Skin Against UV Rays, she says, “Melanin protects the skin by shielding it from the sun. When the skin is exposed to the sun, melanin production increases, which is what produces a tan. It’s the body’s natural defense mechanism against sunburn.” Through the skin’s first couple experiences of this, it may experience some inflammation, or sunburn. However, if you continue to allow your skin to practice and train against the sun’s rays you will grow tanner and build an immunity against it, creating strong and healthy skin.
Sunscreen does not allow the skin to absorb the benefits of the sun. Kellie Brambet, writer of How does sunscreen work, explains the types of sunscreens. Physical Blockers are ground particles that lay on the skin and reflect the UV rays from the sun away. Chemical Absorbers are thin layers on the skin that will absorb the UV rays before reaching any skin. These are most often used together, therefore it is hard to individually argue each one. Both of these types of sunscreen create an artificial shield over the skin, blocking the contact between skin and the sun. This leads to the lack of Melanin produced from the body. Basically, in sports terms, you are sending someone out to practice and train for you while you sit at home doing nothing. When it comes to playing the game you have zero exposure to what you are supposed to be doing which will obviously result in a negative experience. So while the sunscreen that’s been applied blocking the skin from the experience and practice the skin is growing weak and unhealthy.
A strong immune system protects from many things including the sun. The harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure, such as skin cancer, sunburn, and others, can be resisted if not terminated through the body’s natural immune system process. This idea not only renders sunscreen useless, it also makes it an opponent to the health of the skin. The skin, as well as the rest of the body, should fight the battles it will have against the sun’s harmful rays. Through this fight, skin will adapt to react in different ways to win the battle, creating strong, healthy skin.
MD Anderson Cancer Center, & Bramlet, K. (2020, February 4). How does sunscreen work? MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/how-sunscreen-works.h27Z1590624.html.
Boost the immune system. University of Maryland Medical System. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/what-to-know/managing-medical-conditions/healthy-habits/boost-immune-system.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, February 11). Lasting immunity found after recovery from covid-19. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/lasting-immunity-found-after-recovery-covid-19.
Heather L. Brannon, M. D. (2019, June 19). How melanocytes defend your skin against UV rays. Verywell Health. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-melanocyte-1069513.