UV 101 or Why Sunscreen Isn’t Just for the Beach
We’ve all heard that the sun’s rays cause skin cancer and wrinkles. Yet, so many people still only use sunscreen at the beach. I think that’s because most people are under the impression that skin cancer and photo-aging only happen if we get a sunburn. That’s just not true. The sun’s rays are damaging during all daylight hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, indoors and out, sunburn or no sunburn.
That’s because the UV radiation we’re exposed to is made up of UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen used to only protect us from UVB rays which cause sunburn and skin cancers, but then scientists learned that UVA rays – though weaker – comprise up to 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earths surface. They also realized that even though UVA doesn’t burn, it does cause skin cancer and photo-aging. So, both kinds of rays damage our skin, they just do it in different ways and at different times.
The problem with only protecting yourself when you go to the beach is that UV radiation is everywhere! Unlike UVB rays which are weaker at different times of day and seasonally, UVA rays are the same strength at all times of day and all year round. They go right through glass and clouds and penetrate skin deeper than UVB so they’re damaging your skin even on a cloudy day or when you’re in your car.
Have you seen this picture? It’s been floating around the internet since it was first published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2012. It’s of a 69 year old truck driver showing the drastic difference in the amount of wrinkling and sagging between the side of his face that was next to the window and the side that was a bit more protected.
If this picture doesn’t convince you to apply sun protection every day, I don’t know what will!
Sadly for the truck driver there wasn’t a product to protect from UVA rays back in his day. We are so fortunate that there are broad spectrum sunscreens that are invisible, lightweight and easy to use.
Here are a few of my favorites:
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