Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. 80% of skin damage caused by sun exposure can result from one sunburn in your childhood. Understanding the impact of UV light on your skin will enable you to make educated choices when it comes to choosing the correct sun defence products for your skin, causes of your premature ageing, pigmentation, broken capillaries (blood vessels) and skin cancer.
Sunlight or ultra-violet (UV) light is defined as energy and this energy is measured in wavelengths. A wavelength is a measured distance an ultra-violet ray can travel from the sun and potential to be absorbed by living organisms, including human skin. But did you know there are 3 forms of UV radiation that are damaging to your skin? That’s right 3!
Some UV is good UV!
100% coverage and protection all day from UV is not recommended. You need some UV exposure in a safe and measured time frame for a period of 20 minutes a day (outside of the danger hours). in order for your skin to produce Vitamin D which is vital for absorbing Calcium into your bones. Specialised oils in your skin cells are converted into Vitamin D when exposed to UV light.
Reduction in bone density in the last 10 years has recently been related to people not getting enough UV exposure for the natural production of Vitamin D because of fear of skin cancer and ageing skin. Once again this highlights the importance of understanding the effects of UV light on your skin and what you can do to minimise ageing whilst maintaining your total body wellness.
UVA (320-380nm) – this is known as the Ageing ray and is the deepest penetrating ray into your skin. It has a destructive effect to the deeper layer of your skin, the dermis, where your collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid are found. It causes these skin plumping and structural proteins to go rancid, stiff and get stuck together in large ropey bundles known as cross-linking. The result of this cross-linking is skin sagging, wrinkles, sallow complexion and accelerated ageing beyond the decades of your natural ageing.
You cannot feel UVA – it’s a silent assassin. It penetrates glass, bounces off shiny surfaces and is around rain, hail or shine! This is why daily application of sunblock is essential if you are concerned about ageing and maintaining a youthful, full and radiant skin.
UVB (280-320nm) – the Burning ray – think B for burning! This is the warm, skin sizzling ray you feel on a sunny day. UVB primarily effects the outer layer of your skin, the Epidermis and has serious consequences for the development of skin cancers. It causes the blood vessels in your skin to swell, emit intense heat and causes your skin to rapidly thicken as a protective mechanism causing the leathery texture and wrinkling common on ‘sun bunnies’.
UVB switches off the immune cells in your epidermis causing cold sore outbreaks and poor skin healing. In addition, this ray loves to stimulate the specialised pigment producing cells in your skin causing pigmentation, visible as the brown and patchy discoloration you may see on your skin. Melanin’s function is to protect your skin cells from UVB rays and the free-radical havoc it causes. That sun tan you may aspire to is actually your skin cells screaming at your melanin producing cells to produce more colour in an attempt to stop you from getting skin cancer!
UVC (100 to 280 nm) – UVC is present in small but intense doses in our atmosphere. Usually the Ozone layer keeps UVC on the outer stratosphere of the earth but due to the holes opening in the Ozone layer UVC has been able to get through. It kills micro-organisms such as bacteria’s and fungi and is used as a common disinfectant and steriliser in the medical industry. It can also cause redness in the skin and can cause significant irritation to your eyes when exposed to it. There is still no definitive decision whether UVC causes skin cancer or other destruction to the skin but for now our recommendation is better be safe than sorry and stick to a regular daily routine of applying sun protection products.