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How UV rays impact your skin (& health)

How UV rays impact your skin (& health)

When it comes to skin cancer, a major risk factor is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Here is your guide to UV radiation and how it damages your skin.

Let's start with the good news!


And yes, you can still enjoy outdoor activities by taking easy, and smart sun protective measures.

The sun produces UV radiation (your eyes can't see it, but your skin can feel it)

There are 2 types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk for skin cancer:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength, and  is associated with skin aging.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning.

Both UVA + B do harm to the skin, even though they differ.

It's important to note that unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects, or mutations, that can lead to skin cancer (as well as premature aging.)

What you need to know (taken from the Skin Cancer Foundation):

  • A majority of nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC) and a large percentage of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
  • UV exposure is a powerful attack on the skin, creating damage that can range from premature wrinkles to dangerous skin cancer.
  • Damage from UV exposure is cumulative and increases your skin cancer risk over time. While your body can repair some of the DNA damage in skin cells, it can’t repair all of it. The unrepaired damage builds up over time and triggers mutations that cause skin cells to multiply rapidly. That can lead to malignant tumors.
  • The degree of damage depends on the intensity of UV rays and the length of time your skin has been exposed without protection. Location is also a factor. If you live where the sun is strong year-round, your exposure level and risk increases.
  • You can easily reduce your likelihood of developing skin cancer by taking care to protect yourself against UV radiation.

UVB facts and risks

  • UVB penetrates and damages the outermost layers of your skin. Overexposure causes suntan, sunburn and, in severe cases, blistering.
  • UVB is connected to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on labels of sunscreen products. The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s radiation (including some of the UVA) would take to redden your skin when using that product compared to the time without sunscreen.
  • UVB intensity fluctuates. While the sun’s rays are strongest and pose the highest risk late-morning to mid-afternoon from spring to fall in temperate climates and even greater timespans in tropical climates, UVB rays can damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes or on reflective surfaces like snow or ice.
  • UVB rays can be filtered and do not penetrate glass.

UVA facts and risks

  • UVA rays cause tanning and the shorter wavelengths of UVA also cause sunburn. There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. UVA radiation is proven to contribute to the development of skin cancer.
  • UVA is connected to the “broad-spectrum protection” you see on the labels of sunscreen products. Early sunscreens only protected your skin from UVB rays, but once it was understood how dangerous UVA rays were, sunscreen manufacturers began adding ingredients to protect you from both UVB and UVA across this broader spectrum.
  • UVA rays, while slightly less intense than UVB, penetrate your skin more deeply. Exposure causes genetic damage to cells on the innermost part of your top layer of skin, where most skin cancers occur. The skin tries to prevent further damage by darkening, resulting in a tan. Over time, UVA also leads to premature aging and skin cancer.
  • UVA radiation is the main type of light used in most tanning beds. Once thought to be safe, we now know it is just the opposite.
  • UVA is everywhere. UVA accounts for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the earth. These rays maintain the same level of strength during daylight hours throughout the year. This means that during a lifetime, we are all exposed to a high level of UVA rays.
  • UVA can penetrate windows and cloud cover.

Protect yourself!

Despite the risk factors, you can safely, happily enjoy the great outdoors by protecting your skin against UV exposure with broad spectrum sunscreen and sun-safe clothing, hats and sunglasses.

The best thing to do is to make it part of your life. 

Protecting your skin has never been easier or more fashionable. There are makeup foundations with SPF and UPF clothing and accessories on the market, like our Sol a Mer hats that offer both protection and style.

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