We all love sunshine, and it makes us feel great on the inside but there are some careful reminders that we should all consider while out in the sun. The skin is the largest organ of the human body, so it’s important the we look after it well. There are few things which are more damaging to the skin than the harmful rays of sunlight. To understand why sunlight is bad for the skin we need to first look at what sunlight is and why it can be harmful.
The energy released from the sun is broken down into different spectrums, these are Ultraviolet, Infa -red and Visible light. The one we are concerned with is the Ultraviolet or UV rays of light, these are the kind which can cause damage. UV light is further split into two spectrums UVA and UVB rays, UVA rays are long wave whereas UVB are short wave rays. You cannot see the UV rays with your eyes but it is absorbed by the skin nevertheless and this is where the damage begins. UV rays can play an important role in premature skin ageing, skin cancer and even eye damage. This is why it is especially important to be aware of these risks and do what we can to avoid or minimise them.
UVA rays are the most common, they make up for 95% of all UV rays, however they are less harmful than UVB rays. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and glass and its present at the same intensity for the whole day regardless of how much sunshine we get. This means that even if it’s a cloudy day chances are your skin is absorbing UVA rays. The UVA rays will be absorbed in the lower parts of the skin structure, mainly in the dermis layer, which is below the outer layer that is called the epidermis. Tanning salons emit UVA rays, and its shown to be 12 times more powerful than what we are exposed to with the natural sun, therefore people who use tanning salons are 2.5times more likely to develop skin cancer.
UVB rays contribute to the reddening and sunburn of the skin, they are short wave meaning they mainly only penetrate as far as the epidermis (top layer of skin). It is thought that these type of rays contribute significantly in the formation of skin cancers and also sun ageing of the skin. These rays will be determined by the intensity of the sun, therefore the stronger the sunlight the stronger the UVB rays will be. Due to their short length they do not easily pass through glass.
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Sun protection is vital to ensure that you keep your skin safe, wearing a sunscreen which covers against both UVA and UVB rays is recommended. A lot of people believe that SPF (sun protection factor) is a gauge of sun strength and the intensity of sun the sunscreen can be used in. However contrary to common misconception it has nothing to do with intensity of sun, it indicates the length of time you can be exposed to the sun before reapplying. In other words, SPF 15 will protect just as well as SPF 50 in strong sunlight, the only difference is that you will need to apply SPF 15 more frequently. Sunscreen will need to be reapplied after swimming or profuse sweating no matter how long its been since you last applied it as it will start to wear off. When buying sunscreen its recommended that you buy one with SPF 30 to protect against UVB, and that it has at least a 4-star UVA protection. Star ratings are used to display the protectiveness against UVA rays, these come at a maximum of 5 stars on UK sunscreens. If you see a UVA sign in a circle this means that it meets EU standards. Wearing sunscreen doesn’t give you total protection, its still recommended to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm. Its also advised to cover up when in the sun for extended periods of time. This will help keep your skin healthy and safe avoiding sunburn.
So make sure you are well informed on the above information whether here in the UK or when going abroad, sun safety still applies. There may also be other precautions to consider such as malaria and vaccinations, a full detailed list can be found HERE. If you do require anti-malaria medication for your trip don’t forget that we can help you with that too, take a look at the options HERE.