Everyone knows that staying in the sun too long can damage our skin and even lead to severe health conditions like skin cancer. But did you know there is a full spectrum of sun rays that can attack your skin in different ways?
1) The Sun can be lethal when you least expect it
In the summer, sunscreen is a must for many of us. But in the spring, the first warm rays feel relatively harmless. After suffering through those cold winter months (especially this past winter), who wouldn’t like to be bathed in spring sunshine? Be Careful!!!! Those seemingly mild ultraviolet rays are likely to be more lethal and cause more photo-aging than those in hot summer weather.
For example, in New York City, the UV index doubles from March to April. From January-March, the index registers 2, but by April it is already up to 4 and by June it is at its highest of 6!
In addition, due to the low content of the global ozone layer in spring, more than 95% of the sun's UVA and UVB will penetrate the clouds.
The metabolic skin cycle is generally 28 days. If the skin gets exposed to excessive ultraviolet rays at the end of March/the beginning of April, it may sustain damage even before the summer starts. Coupled with occasional strong winds and lingering cold temperatures, the skin is more prone to damage and photo-aging in early spring.
2) Photo-aging is the enemy of Youthful Skin
There is a natural aging process of the human body that includes the largest organ - our skin. How we age is very individual and depends on many factors, such as genetics and lifestyle. Photo-aging, which accounts for as much as 90% of skin aging, is extrinsic and premature aging that occurs due to exposure to UV radiation. Signs of photoaging include wrinkles, pigmentation changes (freckles, age spots), loss of elasticity, uneven skin texture, and redness.
You might think that using sunscreen with a high SPF factor will protect you from photo-aging. Not true!! The SPF factor solely focuses on preventing UVB-induced sunburns and DNA damage, leading to skin cancer. Photo-aging results from the other part of the radiation spectrum, called UVA rays.
UVA radiation significantly increases levels of ROS (free radicals) inside the skin. These high levels of ROS result in damage to skin cells and their surrounding connective tissue (i.e., collagen and elastin), which leads to the physical signs of premature photoaging. Internal antioxidants within the skin are depleted during elevated levels of UVA-generated ROS. The best way to help your skin is to look for anti-aging creams that deliver external antioxidants that help combat ROS. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Methylene Blue are popular active antioxidants used in skincare.
3) Different Sun Rays can do different damage
The two types of UV radiation that reach our skin are UVA and UVB waves, which cause different types of skin damage. UVA waves are longer in wavelength (320–400 nm) and penetrate deeper into the skin, generating high levels of free radicals (ROS) in the dermis, causing photoaging. UVB waves are shorter (280–320 nm) and carry higher energy. They cause reddening of the skin (erythema) that can be as severe as sunburn and DNA damage/mutations within skin cells (e.g., melanocytes, keratinocytes), leading to skin cancer.
It is vital to protect your skin against both types of radiation. The best defense is to minimize exposure during high-intensity times (10 am-4 pm), wear protective clothing, and, of course, use an excellent broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen.