We often hear that the sun is bad for the skin, but what exactly does it do to the skin?
What are UVA and UVB rays and how do they affect the skin differently? How do we properly protect our skin from sun damage? GMA will answer all of these sun-related questions to help you preserve healthy, youthful and radiant looking skin!
THE SUN’S HARMFUL RAYS
UVA – Aging Rays
UVA rays have a longer wavelength that penetrate deeper into the skin, to the lower levels of the epidermis and to the dermis, damaging the DNA of skin cells and destroying collagen. UVA exposure is a leading cause of premature skin aging (i.e., wrinkles, skin laxity, hyperpigmentation etc.) and skin cancer. UVA radiation is what causes tanning as these rays penetrate to the lower levels of the epidermis, triggering pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes to produce melanin (pigment).
While both UVA and UVB rays are harmful to unprotected skin, UVA rays are considered more of a threat as they account for a significantly larger percentage, about 95%, of UV light that reaches the skin. While you may not feel the effects of UVA rays (unlike UVB rays where you will feel heat), they are present all year round regardless of rain or shine, as UVA light penetrates through clouds. UVA rays also penetrate through glass, which means staying indoors doesn’t protect you from the sun and driving without protection destroys healthy skin. Those who drive on a regular basis may notice the left side of their face (due to more UVA exposure) aging quicker than the right side.
UVB – Burning Rays
UVB rays have a shorter wavelength that reach the upper layers of the skin (the epidermis) and overexposure leads to sunburns. UVB radiation also increases risk of skin cancers.
Like UVA rays, UVB rays are present all year-round, but the intensity of UVB radiation varies to a greater extent based on various factors including season, weather, time of day and geographic location. As a general rule, when there is more sun and less clouds, UVB exposure is greater. UVB rays do not penetrate through glass and therefore the skin does not burn when we are indoors or driving.
Sun Protection Tips
The point of sharing all this information about the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays isn’t to keep you from the sun but to keep you from sun damage. Here are some helpful tips to prevent photo damage:
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher, regardless of rain or shine. Apply a generous amount and reapply every 2 hours. At GMA, we recommend our Elta MD SPF formulations for sufficient UVA and UVB protection.
- Take breaks from the sun to reduce exposure, especially when the rays are strongest, typically between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
- Include in your daily skincare regime, a combination of vitamins A, C and E and other antioxidants to defend and reverse the effects of sun damage.
- Wear a hat with a brim and clothing that covers as much skin as possible
- Wear sunglasses labelled UV400 (which blocks nearly 100% of UV rays) to protect the eyes and the delicate skin around eyes. A good habit to adopt is to make sunglasses a regular part of your wardrobe and always wear them when driving
- Avoid intentional tanning and sunbathing. Consider alternatives to achieving a desirable, tanned skin tone such as spray tan and at-home tanning treatments.
Feel free to book a complimentary skin assessment and consultation for a customized treatment plan and professional advice on proper skincare to repair sun damage and maintain a healthy, bright complexion.