The sun emits lots of different kinds of light. There are two major types that easily reach the earth’s surface and are most damaging to your skin—Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). Needless to say, the human eye cannot see these rays. In fact, you may not even feel it, until it’s too late. But the truth is, both UVA and UVB light are present in the atmosphere at all times, even on cloudy days.
The easiest hack to remember the difference between the two is that UVA Rays = Ultraviolet ‘Ageing’ Rays, and UVB Rays = Ultraviolet ‘Burning’ Rays. Let’s take a quick look at how they actually differ, and why it’s super important to shield your skin from both.
UVA Rays = Ultraviolet ‘Ageing’ Rays
UVA light accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth. This makes them more of a threat because you are exposed to a much larger percentage of them.
They can penetrate the deeper layers of your skin, destroying your collagen and elastin (the proteins that keep your skin plump, youthful), making them one of the leading causes of wrinkling and premature ageing. On top of that, UVA rays can pass through glass. So, whether it’s rainy or sunny, and whether you’re indoors or outdoors, UVA rays can always damage your skin.
“UVA rays are one of the leading causes of wrinkling and premature ageing.”
UVB Rays = Ultraviolet ‘Burning’ Rays
Since UVB light is partially absorbed by the ozone layer, it accounts for just 5% of total UV radiation. However, even though only a smaller percentage of it reaches the earth’s surface, it can be just as damaging––in fact, it has higher energy levels than UVA light.
Although UVB rays don’t penetrate the deeper layers of your skin as much, they are responsible for wreaking havoc on the outermost layer of your skin, often resulting in a ‘tan’, or worse, a lobster-red sunburn. Moreover, these rays can cause direct damage to skin cells and DNA and in more severe cases, skin cancer.
Usually, you’ll start to see the effects of UVB rays on your skin just a few hours after exposure to the sun. Note that both UVA and UVB rays play a role in causing skin cancer.
“Overexposure to UVB rays leads to sunburns, DNA damage, and in more severe cases, skin cancer.”
The Importance of Wearing Sunscreen—Every. Single. Day.
If you care about fine lines and ageing, you’re probably well aware of the importance of using sun protection. When done right, it can shield your skin from harmful rays, diminishing your risks of sun damage, wrinkles and even skin cancer. Only wear SPF 30 or above, to ensure you are properly protected, and make sure you are applying it every day, reapplying every 2 hours (more often if you’re engaging in water-based activities like swimming.)
On top of that opt for a sunscreen that offers ‘broad spectrum’ protection, which is designed to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, and choose water-proof or water-resistant options! This means they won’t melt away as easily when you sweat or if you are exposed to water. (Note that even if it is water-proof or resistant, you still have to reapply often!)
Other measures you can take to protect yourself from the sun include covering up your skin, avoiding the outdoors between 10 am and 4 pm (when the sun is at it’s hottest, and spending more time in the shade. Finally, whip out your wide-brimmed hats, scarves, and UV-protective sunglasses. 😎