Skin changes. There are many reactions that are caused when sunlight hits your outer skin. Melanocytes are excited into action, which in turn produces melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its individual color or tan. Sunlight causes freckles, the color in some moles, and potentially mild to severe sunburn. Finally, DNA can be altered and may form malignancies later on.
Melanin absorbs UV light and is produced by your body in an attempt to protect itself from radiation. A tan is the body’s way of responding to sun damage. When you see people walking around with a nice golden tan, they are literally exemplifying the body’s magnificent response to danger. If you have a tan, you have sun damage. The two are one and the same. Black skin, however, is naturally protected (in part) from the sun due to the high amounts of melanin inherent in the skin. So if you’re African-American or another dark skin type, you have not incurred damage; you are simply blessed with a built-in sunscreen from the melanin naturally (genetically) present in your skin.
Sun exposure causes cumulative damage. This is what a lot of people just don’t understand. You start accumulating “sun-time” from birth, whenever and however long you are exposed to the sun’s rays. This includes walking to and from your car as well as basking in the sun at the beach. The sun doesn’t differentiate one kind of exposure from the other. All exposure counts in terms of sun-time. Skin cancers can take many years to form under the surface. If you were sunbathing at 18 years old, it may take 10 to 20 years for that damage to show up.
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