Skin is the largest organ of our body and comes into contact with the outside environment. Its function is to provide a protective layer against contaminants. It also acts as a shield against light and heat, thus aiding in the regulation of the body’s temperature.
The skin, consisting of different layers, contributes to a number of functions.
Itis covered by a mixture of sweat and fat forming a hydrolipidic film that limits the growth of bacteria and gives the skin a velvet-like appearance. Thanks to the blood vessels feeding the skin and the secretion of sweat, the body’s temperature remains stable. The skin acts as a thermo-regulating organ. When we feel cold, the blood vessels contract to prevent the loss of body temperature. When we feel hot, it is the opposite: the flow of blood increases and sweat is produced and it results in a drop of temperature on the skin’s surface. Vitamin D, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium needed for bone development and growth, is formed in the epidermis under the influence of the sunlight.
To learn what our skin needs during a trip we asked dermatologist Dr. Tania Vladeni:
The traveller’s skin is exposed to conditions that differ from the usual ones. The problems start from the means of transport that might be used. If we are in an airplane, we should keep in mind that both the temperature and moisture will be different from the ones while on the ground.
A long flight could lead to loss of moisture from the epidermis, a rather difficult situation for those suffering from dermatitis or allergies to pollen, animal hair or mites. This situation might be intensified by the high temperatures in the skin folds due to the many hours of immobility that come with a long trip. To avoid such problems, the advice is simple. The skin should be well hydrated before the beginning of the flight. A cool shower and application of moisturizing cream are sufficient. If we wear cotton clothing we will prevent inflammation and intense itching.
For travellers using a ship for their transport, first and foremost we suggest caution during their exposure to the sun, application of a good sunscreen lotion with a high SPF, as well as wearing a hat for extra protection of the skin from the sun, a dear yet dangerous ‘friend’.
Sothe sun is an energy station with a wide spectrum of radiation. The radiation affecting our skin is only a small part of that spectrum. The intensity of UV radiation depends on many factors as well as the potential of UV radiation to harm depends on:
- The season, the geographic latitude, the time of day (factors that define the position of the sun on the horizon).
- The altitude (there is 20% more UVB radiation at 1500m than at sea level).
- The reflection of sunlight from the surface of the ground, which varies at an important degree: 85% is reflected from snow, 17% from sand, 4% from water and 3% from grass.
- The atmospheric diffusion (diffusion of white light gives the sky a blue colour).
- The clouds (clouds high in the sky don’t stop more UV radiation compared to a clear sky).
Ultra Violet Radiation of the sun
- UVC (100 – 290nm). It is blocked by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the earth’s surface.
- UVB (290 – 320nm). Constitutes 5% of the total UV radiation of the sun and during summertime it is responsible for 80-90% of sunburns, photo-aging and skin cancer.
- UVA (320 – 400nm). Constitutes 95% of the total UV radiation during summertime. Responsible for 10-20% of skin damages and erythema multiforme caused by light.
So, for all tourists with a destination to sunny and seaside locations, irrespective of the means of travel (airplane – ship), the use of sunscreen with an SPF over 30 and moisturizing cream as well as avoiding exposure to the sun during noon hours is necessary. However caution does not stop there. The flora and sea are places where various small organisms are lurking. Therefore, an insect repellent for relevant protection should be included in our luggage.
Insect bites, sunburns and erythema multiforme (allergic reaction to the sun) are the most common complications that might occur when we arrive at our destinations.
Cortisone ointments, antihistamine or cortisone pills can solve these problems.
So let’s “equip” our luggage with all the products needed to aid us in avoiding such issues with our skin and help us to keep it healthy during and after our vacation.
- Avoid exposure to the sun between the hours 11:00 – 15:00
- UV radiation does not lose intensity on a cloudy day. Over 80% penetrates the skin.
- Use special sun-glasses with UV protection.
- Use (as frequently as possible) special sunscreen lotion.
- Avoid using technical tanning lotions.
Dr. Tania Vladeni
Director of the Dermatology Department at Andreas Syggros Hospital
Former Doctor in the Dermatology Department at Evangelismos Hospital
Former Doctor at Ygeia Hospital
Former Doctor at IASO Children’s Hospital
Doctorate with Honours from the School of Medicine at the University of Thessaly
Master’s Degree with Honours from the National School of Public Health