Sunlight is important to the body, producing vitamin D and helping regulate sleep patterns and mood. However, sun exposure can be harmful to the skin, as ultraviolet radiation damages skin cells. Sunscreen protects against the sun’s rays and helps maintain a youthful appearance.
There are two types of ultraviolet rays that can affect us, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA are longer rays and can penetrate deeper into the skin and affect the DNA of skin cells. Cell membranes are attacked by these rays and protein structures are affected. The levels of collagen and elastin in the skin are lowered, therefore leading to wrinkles and sagging. UVB rays are shorter rays that are absorbed by the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. These rays inflame the blood vessels, turning the skin red and causing a sunburnt appearance. UVB rays can also affect the genetic material of the skin, leading to skin cancer.
Sunscreen is the best method of protecting the skin from sun exposure as it blocks ultraviolet rays. SPF, or sun protection factor, is a measure of how well the sunscreen prevents UVB rays from causing skin damage. Look for a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, as these do a great job of protecting the skin from UVB. A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Also consider that UVA rays can pass through windows, affecting the skin even when indoors.
Who should use sunscreen? It is appropriate for anyone over the age of six months, and should be used every time you are exposed to the sun. Apply it 15-30 minutes before exposure, and reapply every 2 hours. Try to stay indoors when the sun’s rays are strongest, between 10am and 2pm. Dark-skinned people should also use sunscreen, as everyone needs protection from harmful rays. People with rosacea and other types of sensitive skin should use a mineral-based sunscreen as this is less irritating to the skin. Follow these steps to enjoy your time in the sun while taking care of your skin.