by Lisa Keilhofer

Intact skin microbiome essential for sun bathing

Moderate sun bathing is recommended
Moderate sun bathing is recommended – for your skin's sake!

In April 2019, a team of scientists from the University of Graz published a >>> study on the interaction of the skin microbiome and endogenous skin protection against UV radiation.

It is well known that direct exposure of the skin to UV radiation in the sunlight causes serious damage. It was as early as in the 1970s that the harmful effect of UV radiation on the immune system was scientifically verified. In tests on mice, cancer cells were subcutaneously implanted and the animals were irradiated with UV light. The so treated mice had less capability to repel these damaged cells in comparison to untreated animals. But it was only recently that scientists found out that a damaged skin microbiome is one of the reasons for this.

Immunosuppressive UV rays foster growth of cancer cells

Skin that is exposed to UV rays always faces an increased risk for immediate damage, such as burning, and cancer-encouraging long-term damage of the cells. The dermatologist >>> Prof. Dr. Peter Wolf and his team recently examined the interaction of an intact skin microbiome and the protection shield of the skin. Models were exposed to harmful radiation in the lab, whereas one part of the model set had an intact microbiome and the comparison group had a damaged microbiome through antiseptic. The experiment clearly showed a correlation between damaged skin microbiome and skin protection shield.

Moderate sun bathing is recommended

Should we consequently avoid direct exposure to sunlight completely to prevent skin cancer? Prof. Dr. Wolf says, no, moderate sunbathing is better than no sunlight at all. Our body needs sunlight for the production of vitamin D. In our latitudes, it is almost impossible to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D without the help of additives. However, vitamin D is crucial for bone structure and muscle buildup. A deficiency in vitamin D causes rachitis, especially with children. This is why supplements are recommended for kids. But also, for adults, the vitamin is important, especially for those who have an indoor-job and are constantly lacking sunlight and the possibility to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D. So, how much sunbathing is healthy?

The right amount combined with the right care products

As always, there is no standard valid equally for all people. The need is from person to person higher or lower; and the production of vitamin D slower or faster, depending on the skin type. So, Prof. Wolf does not recommend to refrain from sunbathing altogether. In regards to the skin microbiome, it is a good idea to treat one’s skin with care, using as little care products as possible. For all necessary applications like sunscreen, it is important to use only Microbiome friendly products. And it makes sense to steer clear of disinfectants and sterilizing products.

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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