The sun is essential for life. It provides us with vitamin D and improves our mood, but it can also cause serious damage to the skin if we don't take proper precautions.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to several skin problems, from sunburn to premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.
This guide by Jess Beauty will explore what UV rays are, the risks of unprotected exposure, and how to protect your skin.
UVA, UVB and UVC rays
UV, or ultraviolet rays, are a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and lies beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum of light. UV rays are divided into three categories based on their wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
UVA (Ultraviolet A)
UV rays with the longest wavelengths, ranging from approximately 320 to 400 nanometers. Although UVA are less energetic than UVB and UVC rays, they can penetrate deep into the skin.
UVA rays are present throughout the day and can cause premature aging and cell damage and contribute to the development of skin cancer.
UVB (Ultraviolet B)
These rays have wavelengths of approximately 280 to 320 nanometers. They are more energetic than UVA rays and only penetrate the upper layers of the skin.
They are responsible for causing sunburn and tanning and can also contribute to skin cancer.
UVC (Ultraviolet C)
These rays have shorter wavelengths of 100 to 280 nanometers. However, most UVC rays are absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere and do not reach the surface.
They are very energetic and can damage DNA and other cellular components. Fortunately, the ozone layer in the atmosphere acts as a natural filter for UVC rays.
So, the main difference between UVA and UVB lies in their wavelengths and the depth to which they can penetrate the skin.
Both types of UV rays can harm skin health and increase the risk of skin cancer and other problems associated with excessive sun exposure.
What damage can sun exposure cause without UV protection?
Unprotected exposure to UV rays can cause much damage to the skin and the body in general.
Here are some of the most common effects associated with excessive UV exposure:
- Sunburn: redness, inflammation, and pain in the skin.
- Premature aging: wrinkles, dark spots, dry skin, and loss of elasticity.
Skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
- Suppression of the immune system: hinders the body's ability to defend itself against infections and skin diseases.
- Eye damage: It can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, which can affect long-term vision.
- Allergic reactions: solar urticaria, which causes skin rashes and intense itching.
How to protect the skin from UV rays?
Protecting the skin from UV rays is essential to prevent long-term damage, such as premature aging and skin cancer.
Next, we show you some steps you can take to protect your skin from UV exposure:
- Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Be sure to cover all exposed areas of skin, including the face, neck, hands, and arms. Reapply every two hours.
- Protective clothing: Opt for fabrics with built-in sun protection or clothing in dark colors, which tend to block UV rays better.
- Sunglasses: Wear sunglasses that offer protection against UVA and UVB rays. These will protect your eyes but also the delicate skin around them.
- Avoid peak hours: Try to limit sun exposure during the hours when UV radiation is most intense, usually between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.
- Seek shade: If you are outdoors, seek shade under trees, awnings, or umbrellas to reduce direct sun exposure.
- Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit artificial UV rays and can cause serious skin damage, including an increased risk of cancer.
- Stay well hydrated: Drinking enough water helps keep skin healthy and less susceptible to the effects of sun exposure.
Sun protection should be part of your daily routine, even on cloudy days or cold weather. Prevention is the key to maintaining healthy skin and protecting it from the damage caused by UV rays.
What is the limit for tanning the skin?
Tanning is a natural skin response to sun exposure, specifically UVB rays. However, it's important to understand that tanning is a sign of skin damage caused by UV rays.
It is the result of the production of melanin, a pigment that the skin produces to protect itself against UV radiation. As the skin produces more melanin, it darkens, giving rise to a tan.
There is no safe limit to tanning the skin, as it indicates skin damage. The idea that a tan is healthy is a persistent myth. Any change in skin color due to sun exposure indicates damage and can increase the risk of premature skin aging, cell damage, and skin cancer.
Instead of going for a tan, it's a good idea to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding exposure during peak UV hours.
If you want to look tanned, consider using self-tanning products without sun exposure. These products provide a temporary tan without the risk of skin damage.
Remember that skin health is essential and that a tan is not a sign of healthy skin but rather a sign of sun exposure and potential damage.
Protect your skin from the damage that sun exposure can cause with a beauty routine that includes sunscreen and products that hydrate and soothe your skin.