Whether it’s in our own garden, in the park or on a beach abroad, for many, sunbathing is an essential part of summer. However, while we get comfy and enjoy the sunlight and heat, our skin has a lot of work to do.
It ensures that our body can continue functioning at all times despite heat, sunlight, pathogens, and pointed or sharp objects we come into contact with. For this, around 300 million cells have to work together in a coordinated manner.
Our skin is a vital ‘high-tech tool’ that helps us go about our everyday lives. Treating it with care will look after it over the long term. Here you’ll find important information on the workings and structure of the largest and heaviest organ in our body, as well as how to take care of it.
Our skin encompasses our body like a shroud. It protects us from germs and pathogens as well as environmental influences such as sunlight. On the inside, it holds the body together.
The skin also acts as an air conditioner. When we are hot, two to four million sweat glands produce water that gradually evaporates and cools the air above the skin. When we are cold, our skin forms a layer of insulation for our body. Our blood vessels contract and release less heat.
We also communicate with our environment through our skin. Nerves in our skin enable us to receive, and send, signals. In this way, we can feel with our sense of touch or feel pain when danger is imminent. In addition, our skin can reveal excitement or embarrassment in the form of blushing.
Use and care
Sunlight and heat give us a pleasant feeling, boost vitamin D production and release an increased amount of happiness hormones. However, we should not overdo our sunbathing. UV radiation ages the skin faster and can cause permanent damage.
The tips below will help keep your skin looking young and healthy.
- Sunscreen: Apply to uncovered skin regularly. Use at least sun protection factor (SPF) 20.
- Take a break from the sun: Stay indoors or in the shade during summertime between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Sun protection: Cover sensitive parts of your skin. In particular, protect your nose with a sun hat. In terms of clothing, the guideline is: the more tightly woven, the better.
The sun protection factor gives guidance as to how much time we can safely spend outdoors depending on our skin type. For example, if you can safely remain outside in intense sunlight for 15 minutes and apply sunscreen with SPF 20, you would theoretically have a window of five hours (15 mins x SPF 20 = 300 mins = 5 hrs). However, it is recommended to use only roughly half of the calculated time.
– Tans very little
– Gets sunburned very quickly
– Large number of freckles
– Tans slowly
– Gets sunburned quickly
– Quite a lot of freckles
– Tans slowly
– Sometimes gets sunburned
– Not many freckles
– Tans quickly
– Rarely gets sunburned
– Tans quickly
– Very rarely gets sunburned
Approx. 60 mins
– Hardly ever gets sunburned
– Skin is not particularly sensitive to UV radiation
Guide for checking yourself
The likelihood of ‘malfunctions’ developing can be reduced by looking after your skin properly. And by checking yourself regularly, these can be detected in good time. The same applies to skin cancer. By checking yourself regularly in front of the mirror for any changes in your skin, you can identify any abnormalities and then consult your doctor. Follow these tips:
When are skin changes noticeable? How can you tell if something might be an indication of skin cancer? The ABCDE rule is easy to remember and offers guidance for self-checking. If a spot meets at least one of the following criteria, it is advisable to consult your doctor:
Carefully check your scalp using a mirror and comb. Those with less hair on their head should check (or get checked) particularly closely.
Examine your face carefully. Don’t forget your nose, lips and the inside of your mouth.
Check your neck, chest and upper body carefully. Don’t forget the skin between and beneath the breasts.
Check the front and back of the arms and armpits.
Scan your palm and backs of your hand and also check between your fingers and under your nails.
Using a hand mirror, or with the help of another person, take a look at your neck and back.
Scan your buttocks and legs. Then check your feet including the spaces between your toes and nails.
|Is it unevenly shaped, not round or oval?
|Is it poorly defined or is the contour uneven?
|Does it have different shades or colour tones (e.g. black, brown, red, purple)?
|Does it measure more than five millimetres at its widest point? Is it still growing?
|Is it elevated more than a millimetre above the rest of the skin? Is it rough or scaly to touch?
Possibilities for early detection
Health insurance benefit
All people with statutory health insurance aged 35 years or older can get a free skin cancer screening every two years. The screening includes the following:
- Explanatory meeting and questions about personal medical history and any known previous illnesses in the family
- 10 to 20-minute examination of the entire skin, including ears and external genital area
- Tissue samples from any suspicious areas for further examination in the laboratory
Insured persons under the age of 35 can pay for this examination themselves. Additional charges may apply for the following services:
- Video documentation, through which skin changes can be reviewed retrospectively
- Fluorescence diagnostics for early detection of abnormalities, even in difficult-to-see areas
- Removal of unsuspicious skin changes such as age spots or warts
Good to know
- There is no need to be fearful before visiting your doctor. Most suspicious spots turn out to be harmless. Only around four per cent of patients examined have skin cancer.
- In the case of children: redness and swelling only become visible on the skin a little later in the case of sunburn.
- Avoid tanning beds if you have: skin type I or II, more than 40 pigmented moles, distinctively coloured or shaped moles, a tendency to freckle, experienced sunburn frequently during your childhood, skin cancer or precursors for skin cancer.
- Make sure you are protected: Frequent contact with liquids and chemicals can further reduce the skin’s natural protection and cause irritation. Work gloves help.
- Listen to your body: It can repair damage to genetic material caused by superficial sunburn. However, if you want to stay healthy, don’t let this happen in the first place.