Sunlight, Ventilation And Cleanliness
( Originally Published 1936 )
GOOD COAT OF TAN IS NOT REALLY A SIGN OF HEALTH
WHILE a good coat of tan generally is considered to be a sign of health, it really has nothing to do with health at all. It simply is a protective action on the part of the body against the rays of the sun which may and can do harm. Sunlight is certainly necessary for health, but at the same time, in too large doses it can cause many uncomfortable and even serious conditions.
The nature of tan is not thoroughly known. It is undoubtedly a deposit of some chemical in the lowest layer of the true skin. This material is probably one of the sulphur compounds of the body, either cystin or melanin. After the tan has occurred in the skin, the opaque chemical substance protects the skin, and especially the underlying structures, from any further harm from sunlight.
A perfect method for preventing sunburn has not yet been perfected. Theoretically what such a method should be is a dye which can be rubbed into the skin and which will deposit itself just like the tan does in the skin cells and remain there, protecting the skin and underlying structures until Nature has created the natural layer of tan. You see, this includes a very desirable thing, to-wit: that the substance will not interfere with Nature's process of forming the tan layer.
SUBSTANCE SURE TO BE FOUND
That such a substance will be found in the near future is quite certain. I understand from dermatologists who are experimenting with it that success may be just around the corner. The substance when found would have more value than simply that of catering to vanity. In other words, it would have more than a cosmetic value.
There are certain people who are exposed to sun and water, and who develop conditions of the skin as a consequence which are almost diseases. One of these is called "sailor's hands" and another is "farmer's neck." Everybody is familiar with the corrugated and leatherized appearance of the necks of farmers. The sun-baked skins are also subject to degeneration in the form of skin cancers. A substance, then, which could be used by people in these occupations to prevent the development of the skin condition, would have real value.
Another disease that probably can be caused by sunlight is vitiligo, the formation of pigment in one part of the skin and its absence in white splotches nearby. Probably a substance of the kind described above could be used by individuals who are susceptible to this disease so that they would not acquire the condition on exposure to sunlight.