Sunlight is described as the most precious gold to be found on Earth. Soaking up the sun first thing in the morning will revitalize us and keep us going. Sunlight not only fills our heart, it fills our body too. Sunlight is the primary source of the much needed Vitamin D. A tan adds magical splendor to our looks too.
However, keeping the poetic delight apart, sunlight can be quite dangerous to our skin.
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. Skin can burn from just 15 minutes of exposure to the summer sun. Individuals with fairer skin will be more prone to sunburn, than people with darker skin. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected.
When exposed to sunlight, the skin produces a dark-coloured pigment, melanin, as a shield against damage from UV radiation. The darkening provides some protection against sunburn. However, it is no defence against long-term UV damage.
UVA and UVB
The sun emits three different types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVC rays are filtered by the ozone, UVB and UVA rays reach us.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) ray is associated with skin aging. Chronic exposure to UV radiation triggers degeneration of cells, fibrous tissue and blood vessels of the skin. These result in freckles, nevi and lentigines. UV radiation causes the gradual loss of the skin’s elasticity and leads to wrinkles and dry, coarse skin. UVA is connected to the “broad-spectrum protection” on the labels of sunscreen products. UVA rays can penetrate windows.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) is associated with skin burning. Overexposure causes suntan, sunburn and, in severe cases, blistering. UVB is connected to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on labels of sunscreen products.
High doses of UV radiation damage skin cells and kill most of the skin cells in the upper skin layer. Exposure to UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells.
Approximately 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma cancers are caused by too much UV radiation from the sun.
Sun exposure at any age can cause skin cancer. Follow these simple steps to prevent skin cancer:
- Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays.
- UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try not to venture out in the sun without sunscreen during this time.
- Wear tightly-woven clothes.
- Wear UV-absorbent sunglasses.