It’s finally Friday! And that means Memorial Day weekend is here! Actually, according to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, it’s “Don’t Fry Day,” which was declared to encourage sun safety awareness. This should serve as a reminder for you to protect your skin while enjoying the sun-filled activities that are sure to come this holiday.
When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen, several questions usually arise. Last week we discussed what’s the best ingredient to look for, but there’s another aspect of sun protection that has caused a lot of confusion—UVA vs UVB rays.
First of all, UV radiation is the invisible part of the light spectrum from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, which are further classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC, with UVA being the longest of the three. Most UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t reach the Earth’s surface.
Both UVA and UVB, however, penetrate the atmosphere and are key contributors to conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancers.
UVA rays penetrate to the dermis layer of the skin and play a major part in premature aging, wrinkles and dark spots. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV light that reaches Earth’s surface. They’re present year-round during all daylight hours and can penetrate clouds and glass.
UVA exposure is also the main cause of a tan, and scientists now know that tanning, whether outdoors or in a tanning bed, causes cumulative damage over time. A tan results from injury to the skin’s cells; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.
Tanning beds primarily emit UVA, and can reach levels as much as 12 times that of the sun. Not surprisingly, people who use tanning salons are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and also have an increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. According to recent research, exposure to tanning beds in youth can increase melanoma risk by 75 percent.
UVB is a shorter wavelength than UVA that tends to damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers, causing skin reddening and sunburns. It also plays a role in the development of skin cancer and photoaging.
The intensity of UVB rays can vary by location, season, and time of day. In the U.S., the most significant amount of UVB hits between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from April to October. However, UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes. Unlike UVA rays, UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass, so UVB exposure shouldn’t be a concern when indoors.
When you’re shopping for sunscreen, be sure to choose one that says either broad-spectrum or UVA/UVB protection. Theraderm Platinum Protection Facial Sunscreen is a broad-spectrum, SPF 43 sunscreen. Its 7.5% zinc oxide formula makes it the ultimate protection against both UVA & UVB rays. It’s lightweight, works well under makeup, doesn’t leave a white sheen and won’t irritate your eyes. Get some today so you can enjoy your time in the sun with peace of mind about your skin!