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Sunscreen keeps skin's blood vessels healthy

Sunscreen does a lot more than just protect against sunburn and skin cancer. It also protects the skin’s blood vessels from damage caused by ultraviolet light.

That’s important, because our skin is our largest organ. It provides a waterproof, flexible barrier that protects the rest of the bodies organs and holds everything together. It protects us from the sun, and allows us to touch and feel things. It produces vitamin D, which is vital to health.

It also helps to regular temperature, by expanding and contracting blood vessels close to the skin’s surface.

Sunscreen already does a lot to protect skin from cancer and aging – as long as it’s applied correctly.

Now, researchers from Pennsylvania State University have found that sunscreen can protect the skin’s blood vessels, keeping them in tip-top shape.

“For those who spend a lot of time working, exercising or participating in other various activities outdoors, using sunscreen may protect not only against skin cancer, but also against reductions in skin vascular function,” doctoral student S. Tony Wolf wrote.

Wolf and his colleagues recruited a group of young people with medium to light skin tone to test what effects sunscreen had on the skin’s blood vessels. They tested the effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on their arms, treated with either chemical sunscreen or simulated sweat, while the other arm was left untreated as a control group.

They found that the control arm when exposed showed less nitric oxide-associated vasodilation – an important process that helps prevent overheating.

The treated arms didn’t show that reduction.

“Further, when sunscreen was applied prior to UVR, UVR exposure actually augmented [nitric oxide-associated vasodilation] compared to [the control arm], or when sweat was on the skin,” the research team wrote. “The presence of sunscreen or sweat on the skin may play a protective role against this effect [of UVR].”

So slather on that sunscreen before spending time outdoors. Just be sure that it’s oxybenzone free.

The researchers will present their findings today at Experimental Biology 2019, the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting, in Orlando.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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