Mom wasn’t kidding about all that sunscreen. Sun-damaged skin doesn’t just mean some redness and peeling—there’s a lot more to it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your skin out of harm’s way. You’ll be happy to find that your options aren’t limited to that greasy, gluey, smelly goop anymore. (Thanks, but no thanks, Mom.)
How Dangerous is the Sun, Really?
You’ve probably heard a lot about the negative effects of too much sunshine. You also probably haven’t done much about it. Don’t be ashamed, you’re not alone: according to the CDC, less than 15% of men and 30% of women use sunscreen regularly.
*** "If nobody’s worried about sun-damaged skin, it can’t be that bad, right?" ***
UV Radiation Types The sun emits rays that are packed with energy in the form of electromagnetic waves. This movement of energy is called radiation. Radiation is categorized in many different ways depending on the characteristics of the waves. The category we’re focusing on today is called UV radiation. Sound familiar?
UV radiation is broken into three different types. Only two of them are capable of reaching the surface of the earth (unless by man-made materials), but all three of them can pack a serious punch. UVC radiation is the shortest of the UV rays. (This means that it has the highest energy and the least amount of space between each wave. We’re a little confused too, but you get the main idea.) Luckily, these waves can’t reach the earth’s surface; our beloved ozone layer soaks them right up. If we weren’t protected from UVC, we would be in a lot of danger. (Like, a lot. We wouldn’t survive.)
The next size up from UVC is UVB. This type of radiation does, in fact, make its way down to us and our skin. While they only affect the surface layers of the skin, they cause some major hurt and havoc. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, wrinkling, and other aging effects. They also are a factor in the more serious, even deadly, results of sun-damaged skin. UVB directly damages your DNA, which leads to the development of skin cancer. It may cause other issues such as immune system deficiency.
The widest and most common UV wave, which makes for 95% of the UV light that reaches the earth, is UVA. These waves, due to their lower frequency (by frequency, we mean size, not how often they appear), can reach the deepest layers of your skin. While they aren’t as potent as the aforementioned UVB, they cause sunburns and long-term aging effects.
Sun-damaged skin isn’t just a matter of aloe vera gel and calling it a day. (Although, we can’t deny how nice that stuff feels on a sunburn. The point here is not to get burned in the first place.) The real effects take about 30 years to reveal themselves, and they will do so in the form of wrinkles, spots, sagging, and skin cancer. And, yes, skin cancer can be fatal in the worst cases.
So, How Do You Stop It?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning, it protects against UVB and UVA, not just one or the other) is key. Lucky for the ladies, there are plenty of makeup products that have this essential protection already packed into it. Pay attention to the UV index in your area. Wear a hat (You don’t look bad in hats, we promise—you just have to find the right one!) and put on those stylish sunglasses. We know it’s hot, but aim for long sleeves on awfully sunny days. Not so bad, right? Preventing sun-damaged skin is pretty easy; it’s a wonder most people brush it off.