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Ever enjoyed a sunny day outside? While that sunshine feels comforting, it carries with it UVA and UVB rays. These terms might sound like technical jargon, but they play a crucial role in our skin’s health. Both are types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, with each having unique properties and effects on our skin. Before you step out to soak in more of that golden glow, let’s understand these rays a bit better and discover how best to shield ourselves from any harm they might bring.
These are the most common rays, accounting for up to 95% of the UV radiation which reaches the Earth. The critical thing to remember is that UVA rays can cause skin ageing (wrinkles, sun spots, and lines) and skin cancer. Therefore, you should protect yourself from them. As a result, you must defend yourself from them at all times of the year (including winter!). These are also the rays used in tanning booths, which we strongly advise avoiding, and they may permeate untreated glass (imagine driving for hours in your car). Surprisingly, UVA rays aren’t the leading cause of sunburn. That is up to the dangerous UVB radiation.
UVB rays produce sunburn, but what else do they do? They are also a significant cause of skin cancer and, to a lesser extent than UVA rays, play a part in premature skin ageing. While UVA rays are present all year, UVB rays are more frequent from spring through fall and from late morning to late afternoon. They still strike you in the winter, and if you’re near snow or ice, you’ll get a double dose when they reflect off the sparkling surface.
Ultraviolet radiation has an impact on the Environment. UVA and UVB rays slow the growth processes of nearly all green plants. There is concern that ozone depletion will result in the extinction of plant species and a reduction in global food supply. Because all life is interrelated, any alteration in the equilibrium of plant species can have catastrophic consequences. Plants are the building blocks of the food web; they prevent soil erosion and water loss, are the primary generators of oxygen, and are the top sinks (storage sites) for carbon dioxide.
Sunscreens are given a sun protection factor (SPF) rating based on their ability to block UVA and UVB rays. Higher numbers indicate greater security. Apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with at least SPF 15, even on cold or partly overcast days. Broad-spectrum means that the sunscreen filters out both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation exposure. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, causing accelerated ageing and skin cancer. UVB rays damage the skin’s surface and produce sunburn. Remember to apply a strong coating of sunscreen to all exposed skin.
Do not step into direct sunlight during peak hours. Avoid doing anything outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
UVA and UVB rays can be blocked by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, and skirts. The finest protection comes from tightly woven materials. A damp T-shirt provides significantly less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors provide more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing approved according to international standards is designed for UV protection. If this style of attire isn’t practicable, try wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Remember that an ordinary T-shirt has an SPF value of less than 15, so apply additional sun protection.
Use a hat with a brim that covers your face, ears, and the sides of your neck for maximum protection. Tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, performs best for UVA and UVB rays protection. Avoid hats with holes that allow sunlight in. A darker hat may provide more UV protection. You should also shield your ears and the back of your neck if you wear a baseball cap. Wear protective gear, broad-spectrum sunscreen, or stay in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays and lower your risk of cataracts. They help protect the delicate skin surrounding your eyes from sun damage. The best protection comes from sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wrap-around sunglasses are the most effective since they prevent UV rays from entering from the sides.
You can lower your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter. Even if you are in the shade, use sunscreen or wear protective gear to protect your skin.
You must shield your skin from the sun at all times of the year since UVA and UVB rays damage skin cells and can contribute to premature aging and skin cancer. UVA and UVB rays are both capable of causing skin damage. UVA radiation can penetrate deeper into your skin, causing your skin cells to age prematurely. UVA rays account for approximately 95% of the UV radiation reaching Earth. UVB rays account for the remaining 5% of UV radiation. They have higher energy levels than UVA rays and often cause sunburn by damaging the outermost layers of your skin. These rays produce direct DNA damage and are the root cause of most skin malignancies. The most effective strategies to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays are to stay safe, protect your skin, avoid tanning beds, and wear sunscreen.
Also Read: Can life on Earth co-exist with Radiation?