UV Rays: UV-A, UV-B,UV-C and how they affect your skin
Living in a tropical country like ours comes with its own list of advantages and disadvantages. One such thing that is very bothersome is the scorching heat. While we are aware that our body can derive Vitamin D from sunlight, many others are concerned about UV rays harming the skin. So where is it that we find the right balance? Also, are UV rays terrible for the skin as reports claim them to be? Keep reading, for all your queries have been answered.
What are UV rays?
- UV stands for ultraviolet, and these rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation. To explain in simpler terms, they have the properties of both magnetic and electrical waves.
- The term, waves, originates from the movement similar to that of sea waves. These electromagnetic radiations propagate like waves. It is by this wave-like movement that they travel from one end to other. For example, from the sun to our planet and to our bodies.
- The term ultraviolet comes into the picture because the last visible light is ‘violet’ and UV rays fall a couple of distance shorter from the visible light range. Hence, ‘ultraviolet.’
- These rays comprise 10% of the total sunlight.
Type of UV rays:
There are 3 types of UV rays which are UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. But before proceeding with the types, the concept of wavelengths should be clear. If you imagine a wave, the distance between two wave peaks is called the wavelength. It is often measured in nanometers because that’s how small it can be.
- UV-A (315-400nm): Out of the three, these have the longest wavelength but the weakest in intensity. These are the ones that penetrate the ozone layer and are the most problematic. These can even penetrate up to three layers in your skin.
- UV-B (280-315nm): With a medium intensity, most UV-B rays are absorbed by Earth’s ozone layer, but some of these can still penetrate up to two layers of the skin. Usually affecting the outermost layer of skin, this category can cause considerable damage to your skin
- UV-C (200-280 nm): This has the shortest wavelength but are strongest in intensity. But all of this is absorbed by the ozone layer, so you are safe from natural UV-C. But if you are working or living in an environment where welding takes place or if you work alongside mercury lamps, prolonged exposure can cause skin issues that are at par with the above two types.
Effect of UV rays on our body:
– Since UV-A penetrates the farthest in the skin, it causes premature ageing with prominent signs of wrinkles.
– It also causes brown pigmentation on the skin called sun spots. Prolonged exposure can also cause significant sunburns.
– These are also the culprits that cause skin cancer. This occurs as these rays can alter the DNA of an individual. The phenomenon is mainly because our body is a walking electromagnetic field. And thus, it easily gets affected by the harmful rays
– It also leads to immediate tanning of the skin
– Even though this category is not able to penetrate deep into the skin, it can cause significant burns
– It also causes premature ageing and is also the prime culprit of causing the most dangerous skin cancer, melanoma
– It can also cause tanning, but it isn’t as quick as UV-A
– While short term exposure isn’t very concerning, it can still cause redness with blisters on the skin.
– Higher levels of UV-C for even a short burst of time can cause severe burns, and they tend to affect the outermost layer of skin.
– Prolonged exposure to even low levels of this type can cause premature ageing and skin cancer.
As you can understand from above, UV rays are really harmful to your skin. Not only does it take away the beauty of your skin, but it can also cause irreversible damage which can be life-altering. This is the reason why dermatologists recommend you to use Sunscreen.
- Sunscreen is usually available as a lotion or cream and can selectively absorb and reflect the sun’s UV rays. These contain a mix of Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide, which can deflect most of the harmful rays. You might have seen these as face powders or creams that crickets apply on their face before entering the field.
- The potency of these sunscreens is measured in terms of SPF or sun protection factor. An SPF 50 can block up to 98% of UV-B rays, and SPF 15 can block 93%.
- Also, these sunscreens need to be applied frequently at least every 2 hours to actually get some result.
- If you are staying in or travelling to areas such as the beach or snow-capped mountains, apply sunscreens to keep yourself protected from sunburns.
- Another point to remember is that the highest exposure of these rays occurs between 10am-4pm. Thus, if you can avoid stepping out during these hours, it will be better.
- All UV rays easily penetrate through clothing materials and even sunglasses. Only those sunglasses which have 100% UV protection should be used.