Coolers, beach chairs, umbrellas and sunscreen, lots of sunscreen, are popping up in endless colorful displays throughout stores nationwide! This could only mean one thing, summer is on the horizon!
Picking out a sunscreen to protect yourself and your family can be a bit confusing. What brand do I want? What spf do I need? What does UVA and UVB protectants even mean?
Let’s start with the basics…
Ultraviolet UV rays are emitted from the sun in three lengths. UVA are the long rays, UVB are the short rays and UVC are absorbed in the ozone layer before they even make it to earth. Over the years research has shown that both UVA and UVB can cause damage to the skin. These rays are proven human carcinogens which means they can cause genetic mutations in the skin leading to skin cancers.
UVA rays are the long rays which can penetrate their way deeper into the skin and are responsible for skin aging and wrinkling. They are present during all daylight hours and remain even throughout the year. The tilt of the earth during various seasons does not change the level of UVA rays found in sunlight. These UVA rays can penetrate clouds and even glass when you are indoors or in your car. As you can see, the recommendation of daily sunscreen as part of a good skin care regimen is important.
UVA rays are responsible for damaging the keratinocytes which are found in the basal layer of the epidermis. Basal cells and squamous cells are both types of keratinocytes. Damage to these cells can lead to to both basal cell carcinoma and/or squamous cell carcinoma which are the first and second most common forms of skin cancer.
UVB are the short rays which penetrate and damage the more superficial layers of the skin known as the epidermal layers. These short rays are responsible for burning and reddening of the skin. The intensity of the UVB rays varies with season, location and time of day. UVB rays are most intense between the hours of 10am to 4pm from April through October. Avoidance of the sun during these peak hours is an effective way to prevent skin damage. Although at higher altitudes and with reflection on ice or snow, UVB rays can cause damage throughtout the year. In contrast to UVA, UVB do not significanlty pass through glass.
Protection is Key!
Now that we know both UVA and UVB rays can cause long lasting skin damage what do we do? Protecting yourself and your family is your primary prevention. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and sun protective clothing are key. When choosing a sunscreen read carefully, select a product with “broad-spectrum” coverage for both UVA/UVB protection with as spf of 30 or higher!
Please stay tuned for our second part of sun protection….Choosing Sunscreen, Mineral vs Chemical?
Reference: www.skincancer.org, 2013 The Skin Cancer Foundation | 149 Madison Avenue Suite 901 New York, New York