UV Rays: What Are They and How Do They Affect Our Skin?

daily hydrating moisturizer SPF 30The sun emits 3 different kinds of light: visible light, infrared light which you feel as heat, and “invisible” ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). Even though UV rays only make up a small amount of the sun’s rays, they are capable of causing the most damage to your skin. UV rays are damaging to the DNA of your skin cells, and when the damage affects the DNA of genes that control skin growth, skin cancers are formed. Knowing the difference between the different types of UV rays will better help you understand why it’s so important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection. 

There are 3 types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB, and UVC

UVA rays are linked to long term skin damage such as aging. They are also known to cause an immediate tanning result. Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA rays, which has been found to increase skin cancer risk. UVA rays are the most constant year round and can penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers.

UVB rays can damage the skin cells’ DNA directly and are the main cause of sunburn. Since UVB radiation is stronger than UVA, it affects the outer layers of the skin which is why we see immediate effects like sunburn. These rays are the strongest in the summer months, especially between 10am – 4pm.

UVC rays are the strongest form of radiation from the sun, but we are protected from it by the earth’s atmosphere. UVC rays are not able to reach the earth’s atmosphere.

Both UVA and UVB rays are harmful to the skin. Both rays are present year round, even on a cloudy day, and there are certain factors to be aware of when planning for any time spent in the sun.

  1. • UV rays are strongest in the spring and summer months between 10am and 4pm.
  2. • UV exposure increases at higher elevations. Be sure to apply sunscreen more frequently when you are at higher elevations. You are also not immune to UV rays when flying, so don’t skip the sunscreen on your next flight.
  3. • Some clouds can help dilute the rays’ harmful effects, while others reflect UV light, increasing exposure. Treat a cloudy day like you would any other sunny day.
  4. • UV rays can bounce off reflective surfaces like water, snow and pavement, leading to increased exposure.

Making a broad spectrum sunscreen like Prevention+ a part of your daily routine will ensure you are protecting your skin year-round.