Protecting Your Skin from the Sun’s Harmful UVA and UVB Rays

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Protecting Your Skin from the Sun’s Harmful UVA and UVB Rays


We’ve all heard about photodamage, or the harm that the sun’s rays can cause to our skin. But how does this phenomenon happen?


Dr. Bachilo of Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa recommends that all her patients protect their skin every time they go outdoors by wearing an excellent, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or greater.


Why is sun protection so important? Because excessive exposure to the sun’s rays can wreak havoc on healthy skin cells, causing premature aging, wrinkles, age spots, discoloration, and even pre-cancerous lesions that can lead to skin cancer.


Read on to learn about the sun’s harmful UV rays and how they affect our skin.


What are UVA and UVB rays?

The sun’s light is spread across a spectrum, with the rays at the Ultraviolet (UV) range of the spectrum being the most harmful. UV rays deliver a powerful form of radiation that may come either directly from the sun, or from artificial UV light sources such as tanning beds and sun-lamps. UV rays are known to cause photodamage and premature aging, as well as most forms of skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma.


UV rays come in two types: UVA and UVB rays, both of which may cause photodamage.

UVA rays penetrate the skin, affecting the deeper layers of the dermis, leading to premature aging, and symptoms such as wrinkles, creases, and lax, sagging skin. UVA rays are intense enough that 80% of them can penetrate clouds, which means they can damage your skin even on a cloudy day. Also remember that tanning beds and sun-lamps emit primarily UVA rays, which can damage the deepest layers of skin, causing profound photodamage.


UVB rays are slightly less intense, but these affect the skin’s surface layers. UVB rays damage the outermost layers of the skin’s epidermis and are the primary cause of sunburn, age spots, freckles, fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration, and other imperfections on the surface of the skin.


The intensity of UVA rays remains relatively constant throughout the seasons, meaning you can still get photodamage from being outdoors in winter. UVA rays also exceed the amount and intensity of UVB rays throughout the year.


Excessive exposure to either UVA or UVB rays can result in photodamage and skin cancer, which is why it is important to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays year-round.


How can I protect my skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays?

Because the intensity of the sun’s rays is not dependent upon air temperature, it is important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays all year, not only during the summer months. In the continental United States, it is advised that you avoid outdoor activities between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daylight saving time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) in order to prevent photodamage.


While we can attempt to remain in the shade and out of the sun’s direct rays whenever we go outdoors and particularly during the peak hours, it is not always possible to do so. Even if we somehow manage to stay out of the sun directly, sunlight reflecting off other surfaces, such as water, snow, cement, glass, and metal, may still affect our skin when outdoors.


Wearing clothing that covers large areas of the skin, such as the neck, arms, thighs, and/or legs, is also recommended to protect the skin from the sun’s rays, but is not always a comfortable option in hot weather. One very important form of sun protection is to always wear a good quality pair of sunglasses whenever you go outdoors, as these protect the delicate skin around your eyes as well as the eyes themselves, which may suffer damaged from too much exposure to sunlight.


For this reason, it is especially important to provide the skin with extra protection in the form of a good broad-spectrum sunscreen.


What is the best type of sunscreen to protect my skin from UVA and UVB rays?

The best type of sun protection you can use is one that is labelled “broad spectrum” which means that it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.  Ideally, your sunscreen should have an SPF of 30 or greater, in order to provide efficient protection from both types of harmful rays, even on cloudy days. If you will be swimming of sweating, be sure to apply a good water-resistant sunscreen.

At Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa, Dr. Bachilo can recommend the best possible type of sun care for your skin type, based on factors such as your age, skin condition, and lifestyle. If you live in the greater Houston area and would like to learn more about how professional, pharmaceutical-quality sun protection products can make a dramatic difference in preventing your skin from continued photodamage, contact Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa and schedule your introductory appointment with Dr. Bachilo today!