UV light and your health
I hope you’ve had an amazing weekend. For me this past Saturday was the start of the spring and summer parties as I attended a lovely birthday party. As it stands, I have events to go to for at least the next four weeks and while I was standing out in the sun I thought that this was the perfect time to address the issue of the sun and your skin’s health.
The Nashville area seems to be out of its final cold spell and into the warmer weather until Autumn. Just like me I bet you have all got BBQ’s, garden parties, weddings, graduations, and outdoor birthdays to attend. On top of that we are all getting ready for the summer season which means pool parties and beach fun. I am already seeing the first appearance of shorts making their way into our wardrobes, in fact I bought a new pair just yesterday. For some of us this means it’s time to get a little color back to our skin for fear of looking pasty in your new shorts, bathing suits, and dresses (which, regardless, all look great on you). For others who tan more easily the concern may be getting an even tan or you might even be worried about too much exposure and acquiring sun spots or hyper pigmentation. Whether you want more or less of it, the sun and how much we expose ourselves to it is a point of interest for everyone.
We are just going to put it out there that everyone should be protected from the sun everyday, no matter how direct or indirect you perceive the light exposure to be. The face in particular should be covered by sunblock everyday. Why? Well, we are glad you asked.
The sun emits three kinds of harmful rays of light waves; UVA (Ultra Violet A), UVB (Ultra Violet B) and UVC (Ultra Violet C). No matter how sunny it is outside you are still receiving exposure to these kinds of rays. This is important for two main reasons. Exposure to UVA and/or UVB can accelerate the ageing process and cause wrinkles, fine lines, uneven pigmentation of the skin (freckles, sun spots etc.). Over time the sun’s rays can also cause potentially life threatening issues such as skin cancer. While skin cancer, if detected and treated before the melanoma reaches the lymph nodes, has a very high treatment success and survival rate (98% of patients) it is still a serious matter and should be prevented if and where possible. The UV rays from the sun can exacerbate any potential for cancerous cells in the skin to develop by creating damage to the skin cells over time. This risk for damage and skin cancer is linked to the fairness of ones skin but it can effect anyone regardless of skin tone if they are exposed to enough UV light and therefore skin damage. UV light from the sun is also what causes increased signs of ageing to those who go out in the sun without the appropriate protection.
The mechanics of UV light are fairly well known but we’ll go over them here just to be sure. UVA is the longest wave length of UV light. This is the type of UV light that penetrates the top layers of skin and delves into the epidermis and more importantly the dermis, the deepest layer of skin. UVA light causes long term damage to the skin in the forms of wrinkles and premature ageing. The negative effects are not obvious right away but over time sunbathers who do not protect themselves may witness the undesired fruits of their labours. The effect that is obvious is the golden colour that comes from UVA exposure, which is why most tanning bed do their best to ensure that, as much as is possible, UVA is the primary wave length experienced in a tanning bed.
UVB is a shorter wave length and does not reach as far under the skin as UVA, but the effects are more noticeable and far ore concerning to your overall health. This the the UV light that causes visible burns to the epidermis and the skins surface. UVB causes redness and superficial burning but it is also the light wave that plays a key role in the potential development of skin cancer by damaging the skin cells. Also, the more you damage your skin the harder it will be for you to receive Vitamin D from the sun’s rays, which help with many different aspects of your health. UVB can be produced in certain tanning beds in small amounts (you will need to do your research before using them to find out which is best for you) and while the earth’s atmosphere filters much of the damaging wavelengths, some still pass through to the earth’s surface. it is important to note that Vitamin D is not produced by tanning beds but UVB is, so you might be damaging your skin without receiving any of the benefits of the vitamins that you would normally receive by standing outside in the sun.
The third kind of UV light emitted by the sun, UVC, as it happens, would be the most damaging were it not for the Ozone Layer of the Earth’s atmosphere that shields us from the effects of the sun’s shortest UV wave length.
Basically the shorter the UV wave length the more damage is caused. The reason this is important is because many people apply sun block to avoid the damages brought on by UVA and UVB without knowing that some sun screens only apply to UVB, which is why you can still tan with sunblock on.
In order to be protected by both UVA and UVB you will want to find a sunblock that has an SPF grade and a PA or PPD grade. The SPF, also known as Sun Protection Factor, grading system generally only applies to UVB where the PA, or Protection from UVA, grading system tells you if you are protected from UVA waves as well. The PA or PPD system does not always show up on products in the USA so you will want to check and see if it says there is UVA protection on the product you are using. These protections work on a percentage scale and are supposed to represent an approximation. For example, if you begin to burn in the sun after 20 minutes without protection applying SPF 15 sunblock will protect you for approximately 15 times longer, or such is the idea. The protection varies depending on a number of factors including ones skin tone, tendency to burn, and level of activity. This is also not guaranteed nor does sunblock keep all UVB rays at bay. The percentages are high though with about 93% of UVB being blocked with SPF15 and products block more UV light as the grades rise in number.
Another important factor is how often you apply the product. Many people only apply sunblock once a day but the effects wear off over time due to natural forces such as your skin producing oils, sweat, and of course the wear time suggested in the bottle (SPF 15, SPF 30 and so on). To maintain optimum protection you will need to reapply regularly especially if you are sweating or if you are exposed to water. When in doubt wear your sunblock and bring sunglasses, a hat, and long sleeves with you and try and avoid being in direct sunlight, especially at midday.
We hope you stay safe and protected at all of your summer events and take the precautionary measures to avoid skin damage but should you find that you suffer from permanent skin damage you should see your dermatologist or a doctor who can address the problem. Dr. Paschall has aesthetic machines with the means to improve the skin’s condition or even reverse some damage that has been inflicted. We will go over procedures such as the HALO and BBL at a later date but if you are interested check out our Facebook posts, some of which have shown live procedures being performed, and our website for more info.
Until next time!