We all love a good tan but how much are avid sun lovers sacrificing for appearances? The effects of the sun on our skin is more damaging than we used to think. The sun has been around for six billion years however, scientists are still discovering new information on the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
About UV Radiation
The sun releases energy in several different wavelengths: the visible light that we can see, infrared radiation we feel as heat and ultraviolet or UV radiation that we cannot see or feel. The UV radiation has higher energy and it affects humans in both negative and positive ways. For example, UVB radiation creates vitamin D but it can also lead to sunburn which damages the skin. The ozone layer absorbs and screens out some but not all of the UV rays that are harmful. However, this protective layer has been thinning over the years due to certain man-made chemicals that are now currently being phased out.
Types Of UV Radiation And The Damage They Cause
There are three classifications of UV radiation. UVA which is not absorbed by the ozone layer, UVB which is largely but not completely absorbed and UVC which is totally absorbed by both the ozone layer and the earth’s atmosphere. Serious health effects like skin cancers, eye damage and cataracts and premature aging of the skin including wrinkles are caused by these harmful rays. They also repress the immune system which reduces the body’s ability to fight off these conditions as well as other illnesses.
The UVA rays (A stands for aging) are the dominant tanning rays that penetrate deep into our skin and are the cause of premature aging of our skin as well as cancers. A tan is the result of injury to the skin’s DNA. In an attempts to prevent further DNA damage, the skin darkens which may lead to skin cancer. It was once widely thought that UVA rays were not of much concern and that they did not cause significant damage to the outermost skin layer where most skin cancers occur. However, new research has shown that they are as damaging to skin cells as the UVB rays are. It should be noted that tanning beds can emit up to 12 times more UVA radiation than the sun does.
The UVB rays (B stands for burning) are strongest during summer months, are directly damaging to DNA and largely affect the outer layers of the skin therefor causing sunburns. UVB rays are most dominant in the U.S. during the months of April to October and between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. Keep in mind though, your skin can be burned and damaged year round by UVB rays, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces like snow, ice, sand, pavement and water. The skin is subject to twice the effect in these conditions, once from direct exposure and a second time when up to 80% of the rays bounce back off these surfaces. UVB rays also cause the skin to age prematurely as well as causing cancers.
And the UVC rays are the strongest of the three and are the more dangerous form of radiation. However, absorption by the atmosphere allows very little to reach the earth’s surface, thereby protecting us from these harmful rays.
It is extremely important that you protect your skin while outdoors as well as while indoors. Always seek shade when outside, especially when on reflective surfaces. UVA also transfers through the glass windows of your vehicle and your home or business. This means that protection such as a tinted UV protective film is necessary on the side and rear windows of your vehicle and also in your home and office windows. Up to 99.9% of UV radiation can be blocked by this film while allowing up to 80% of the light to come through. While outside, you can take protective measurements by dressing in a way that limits UV exposure. If you plan on being outdoors for an extended period of time, you should wear protective clothing that contains UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). You may also purchase laundry additives containing UPF that can be washed right into regular fabrics. Certain everyday fabrics also provide a level of UV protection. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes as well as bright or dark colored clothing provide a barrier between the sun’s rays and your delicate skin. Don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes, face and sensitive head and neck areas. To protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays remember; do not burn, avoid tanning beds, wear protective clothing and/or sunscreen and seek shade.