Skin Damage Caused by UV Rays


Spring weather is here, with summer right around the corner. Finally, it is warm enough out to get some sun and even out my blotchy skin tone! This is great news for my skin, right? Although this is a common thought process, there are many negative effects that come from bathing in the sun.

Especially this time of the year, many people think that the sun can help even out skin tones, and yield a glowing look. While this may be partially true, the sun is actually damaging the skin more so than helping it. It is a common misperception that the sun can help your skin. Protecting your skin from sun damage is the first step in preventing further skin damage.

UV rays can damage the skin, eyes, hair and even lead to skin cancers. UV, which stands for ultraviolet, radiation is the electromagnetic light spectrum the sun gives off to the earth. Ultraviolet rays have very short wavelengths, which make it invisible to see.  There are mainly two types of UV rays UVA and UVB, which have wavelengths shorter than visible light.

UVA rays are present during all times of the day and can penetrate through clouds and glass. UVA rays are less intense but more prevalent. UVA rays can also be found in tanning bed lights at more than 10 times the normal amount from the sun. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin through both the top layer of skin (epidermis) and the second layer of skin (dermis) and can reach even deeper in to the skin tissue.  These are the rays responsible for wrinkles, dark spots and skin aging.

UVB rays are the rays that do the most harmful damage to the top layer of the skin, causing sunburn and redness. UVB rays are normally out during the peak times of day and warmer times of the year.  It is best to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from about May to September (depending on where you live), which is when UVB rays are the strongest. UVB rays are a large contributor to abnormal cells and skin cancer.

Not only is it important to avoid these rays in the peak times of the day outside, it’s also important to remember you can be exposed to these rays inside as well. Anything like glass that reflects the sunrays can also cause skin damage, like when inside a car.

Many people also think that tanning in a tanning bed will give them a healthy glow and an even skin tone, but they can be just as bad, and worse than natural UV rays. Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB rays. The FDA (Food and Drug administration) regulates rules around artificial tanning to help prevent people from further damage. They also warn people about the serious negative effects that can be associated with chronic artificial tanning. This season remember that healthy undamaged skin is better than golden but damaged skin. Read our next blog on how to still get that summer glow without the damage!