Damaging Effects of UVA and UVB

There is a huge hype about protecting your skin from the sun and for good reason! Although sunscreen use has reached its peak,  skin cancer rates have also been rising. What is the correlation? There are a few misconceptions that led to the false reassurance of sun protection via sunscreen.

Myth: “My high SPF sunscreen blocks the sun’s radiation”
  • You first must understand that there are different types of radiation from the sun. SPF (the sunscreen measurement we are most familiar with) refers to the level of protection against Ultraviolet B rays (UVB). UVB rays are responsible for damaging the skin via a sunburn. Unfortunately, a majority (95%) of the sun’s rays are Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) which cause wrinkling, sagging, and most importantly, trigger cell mutation that may initiate skin cancer. Simply blocking the UVB rays is not enough and gives us the false belief we are protected from the sun’s harm because we burn less quickly. Most sunscreens are great at blocking those UVB rays, however, they lack the ability to block UVA rays.

Myth: “The sun is bad for me” 
  • Lack of sunshine is just as detrimental to your body and health as getting too much sunshine. When sunshine touches your skin, your body makes vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for immune health and also plays an amazing role in preventing osteoporosis and breast cancer. You can find manufactured vitamin D in health food stores, but it will never be of the same quality that your body produces naturally when exposed to sunshine. The key is getting small doses of sunshine regularly (i.e. don’t try and cram a year’s worth of sunshine into a day at the beach).  

Myth: “I’m not burnt so I’m fine”
  • Sunscreen gives us a filter from the sun, allowing us to spend all day in the sun and moderate the rate of tan. However, as described above, the sun’s rays that burn you are different from the ones that contribute to skin cancer. Sunscreen blocks the burning effects of UVB making us believe we are safe; however, the UVA rays are busy at work damaging our skin. The human body is genius! A sunburn (caused by UVB rays) is your body’s way of saying, “you’ve gotten too much sun and are quickly approaching the point of radiation damage from the UVA rays”. It is important to get out of the sun before you burn. The best way to protect yourself from UVA radiation but still get a good dose of vitamin D is to adopt the philosophy of “everything in moderation”. Go out in the sun (without sunscreen) but don’t stay out too long. When determining “how long is too long”, take these factors into consideration:
    • Your skin tone (darker skin is naturally more protected from sun damage)
    • The heat of the day, cloud coverage, etc.
    • The time of day (burn time will be more delayed in the evenings and early mornings)
    • Location (tropical areas are more prone 

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