We’ve all experienced the pain of a sunburn: the redness, the warm, blistering pain, and then, the itching and peeling. Sunburns are a more obvious form of sun damage but the reality is that the sun’s ultraviolet rays can slowly and subtly damage our skin cells overtime, causing premature aging, or in a worst-case scenario, skin cancer. Nevertheless, there are preventative measures that can help avoid sun damage.
Types of UV Rays
There are two different types of UV rays: longwave ultraviolet A and shortwave ultraviolet B, commonly known as UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays make up over 95% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the surface of the earth. This type of radiation can damage deeper layers of the skin and is responsible for long term damage, like premature aging (photoaging).
UVB rays are more direct and are responsible for giving us those sunburns we talked about and, according to the University of Iowa, play the greatest role in skin cancer formation. That being said, protection is imperative throughout the year even on cloudy days, when the sun doesn’t seem as threatening. Protecting your skin is very important and using sunscreen or sunblock is an ideal option for skin protection against the sun’s rays and its long-term effects.
Sunscreens/Sunblocks Are Effective Barriers
Sunscreen and Sunblock help reduce the effects of these rays on the skin. Sunscreen helps the skin absorb the sun’s rays and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. Sunblock is a topical barrier that can physically block these rays from affecting the skin at all. They’re both proven to be effective in preventing temporary damage as well as reducing long term effects of UV rays.
Choosing the right sunscreen can help optimize your protection and using it regularly will reduce the damage caused by the sun's direct and indirect radiation. When selecting a sunscreen, it is important make sure that it offers broad spectrum UV coverage and that it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 50. Reading the information on the bottle will help determine which sunscreen is best suited for your needs.