Ultraviolet (UV) rays are powerful light waves emitted by the sun. They’re invisible to the human eye but can have extremely damaging effects to the human skin when exposed over long periods of time. There are three types of UV rays, namely UVA, UVB and UVC. Each of these rays has a specific wavelength, thus having different effects on our skin.
UVA rays are the most abundant form of UV light that we’re exposed to at ground level. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause irreparable damage and skin cancer.
UVB rays only penetrate the superficial layers of skin as it has a shorter wavelength than UVA rays. It’s not as damaging to the skin as UVA, however UVB rays are responsible for causing red, painful sunburns when the skin is left unprotected.
UVC rays are virtually completely absorbed by the ozone layer, as long as the hole in the ozone layer does not grow rapidly these rays should not be harmful to us.
UV rays are able to reflect off surfaces such as beach sand, concrete and snow. It’s important to take special care when you’re on the beach or water.
What Effect Does Sun Exposure Have On The Skin?
According to Jeffrey M. Sobell, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of Photomedicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, a sunburn that turns skin red, swells and is painful upon touch is an acute toxic reaction caused by the exposure from the sun's UV rays. The energy from UV radiation can damage molecules in the skin and most importantly DNA. DNA damage can also result in the destruction of the involved skin cell and is one of the reasons why the skin peels after a bad sunburn.
The body does have mechanisms to repair damaged DNA after ultraviolet exposure. But as the frequency of sunlight exposure increases, so too does the probability that some of that damage will escape repair. This mutated DNA may eventually lead to skin cancer.
What Does This Mean?
The skin cells, specifically the nucleus of the cell, undergo certain changes when overexposed to the sun and eventually mutate causing severe and sometimes irreparable damage. The UV rays weaken the skin cells’ ability to heal itself and produce healthy collagen and elastin that help to keep skin firm. Fine lines will start to form because of the weakened collagen and elastin bonds, and if left untreated it will become deep set wrinkles that become difficult to treat. Make no mistake, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, unless it comes in the form of a mousse or spray.
Our skin doesn’t change colour in the sun to make us look more attractive, it changes colour to warn us that it’s being attacked. Tanned skin can often look better than pale skin but the only reason for it to change colour from sun exposure is to help protect itself against UV rays. When skin cells are overexposed to UV radiation and the cell nucleus becomes compromised another thing happens – melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) start producing pigment in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage. This overexposure can lead to the excessive accumulation of pigment and cause skin damage known as hyperpigmentation.
Why Is This Important To Know?
Understanding how and why our skin changes colour or why we get sunburnt helps us to better take care of our skin and keep it healthy, hydrated and rejuvenated. Overexposure to the sun can severely dehydrate the skin, cause hyperpigmentation, early signs of ageing and severe photo-ageing over time. Light and heat exposure can also trigger or increase the production and reoccurrence of hormonal pigmentation, better known as melasma.
It is our recommendation to use a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen daily, summer and winter, to protect your skin against the harmful effects of the sun. At Aurora Medical Aesthetic Centre we spend an enormous amount of time trying to fix sun damaged skin and reverse photo-ageing. Professional aesthetic treatments can help reverse sun damage however, these treatments will not be able to reverse all signs of sun damage and revive the skin completely as there will always be underlying damage waiting to surface
We can safely say that clients who use their sunscreen diligently every day, all year round experience less dehydration and show fewer signs of premature ageing, sun spots, pigmentation and other forms of photo-damage.
Please contact us today for recommendations on finding the best sunscreen products for your skin. Aurora Medical Aesthetics Centre stocks a variety of reputable brands that offer a selection of sun care products to suit every skin type.