Tuesday, May 7, 2013

on vacation! and tanning science!

Currently on vacation with my family in Turkey! Sunbathing and contracting skin cancer and that kind of stuff! Even though I know its bad for you, I sunbathe like there's no tomorrow...

Let me just explain this tanning shizzo for you readers. There are two kinds of radiation involved in the tanning process, both having different ways of tanning you, and in the long term, harming you.

First off, theres the part of the electromagnetic spectrum called UV-A. Ill assume its the one with lower frequency, but I'd have to look it up. What this basically does is oxidise melanin in your skin (Melanin - the same brownish pigment i wrote about in "Eyes in Macro and more Rayleigh LOL"... well, whatever the entry was called...). This causes the Melanin to darken, in turn making you look beautifully tanned. However, UV-B causes a short-term tan, as the Melanin is quickly replaced.

Then theres UV-B, which sounds much worse.

Melanin, in essence, is the active part of the human photoprotective system. Besides being brown and shit, Melanin effectively turns (about 99.9%) the energy of UV radiation into heat, to protect our innards from this dangerous kind of radiation. Naturally dark skinned people have high levels of it in their skin, as they herald from a sunnier place and naturally need more protection. Us white folks dont need to be protected in the same way, because we come from colder climates with less sun. Instead we have smaller amounts of melanin in our skin, which in turn boosts our Vitamin D production - a production dependent of Sunlight.

UV-B sets our photoprotective system into overdrive. How? Well, UV-B destroys DNA, killing our skin cells. As the defences exist to prevent this from happening, it sends a signal to the melanocytes - These produce our melanin - to produce more, because the sun is literally killing us. So thats what a sunburn is, its millions of damaged cells, dying and dissolving. No wonder it itches and burns.

UV-B does however create a long lasting tan (and skin cancer..!), and, while it may sound counterintuitive, some cell-death helps us, because the increased levels of melanin in our skin in turn make us less susceptible to the suns harmful rays in future encounters! And we need the sun, anyway! Staying away from sunlight isnt healthy, we need it for Vitamin D, and light is an important cornerstone in preserving our sanity! And besides, tanning not only makes you a sexy beast, it can be quite relaxing, but its always worth keeping in mind that its not completely harmless!

Anyway, I wont be posting anything before friday, at best. Writing from my dads tablet PC... Its not that great, and I miss the physical, noisy keyboard of my home PC.

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