With the weather warming up, chances are you’ll be spending more time outdoors. But, while you are enjoying the sun’s warm rays, you need to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
To raise awareness of the dangers of UV rays, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared July UV Safety Month. In honor of this, here’s everything you need to know about the risk of UV rays.
WHAT ARE UV RAYS?
Ultraviolet light is a form of electromagnetic radiation which comes primarily from the sun. It cannot be seen by the human eye as its wavelengths are shorter than visible light. This type of light has a wavelength that ranges from 10 to 400 nanometers.
There are two classifications of UV light: UVA and UVB.UVA rays fall between 315 and 400 nanometers, so their wavelength is longer than the UVB. This type of ray can penetrate into the middle layers of skin, making it especially dangerous. UVB rays fall between 280 and 315 nanometers. The shorter wavelength can only penetrate the upper layers of skin.
THE RISKS OF UV EXPOSURE
Both forms of UV light can cause damage to the skin and the eyes. It’s important to know what risks are involved so you can take action to prevent it.
UV light is dangerous because it:
Causes damage to the eye and can damage vision. UVB light can cause photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness. This can damage the retina, cornea and lens.
Causes premature aging of the skin. UV radiation can damage the collagen fibers that reinforce the skin’s structure. It can also destroy Vitamin A, a critical nutrient for skin health.
Can cause skin cancer. UVB rays can cause DNA damage, which in turn can develop into skin cancer. UV-A rays do not directly cause DNA damage. However, it does contribute by generating highly reactive chemicals that do cause the damage.
Suppresses the immune system. Exposure to sunlight alters the way certain cells work. These cells are early triggers for the body’s immune system response. When the way they work is altered, it compromises the body’s ability to react to infections.
LOWERING THE RISKS OF UV RAYS
The good news is that you can protect yourself from most UV damage.
Here are some easy tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:
Wear clothing to protect the skin from UV ray exposure. A large-brim hat will help shade the skin around the face and neck.
Long-sleeved shirts, hats, pants, and sunglasses are recommended.
Keep out of the sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the hours when sunlight is most intense.
Wear sunscreen. You need to select a sunscreen product with an SPF 15 or higher, and it needs to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Use the right amount of sunscreen. To be totally effective, you need a thick layer of sunscreen. The recommended amount is a palmful or about one ounce.