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Unless you’re a dermatologist, you likely have only a basic understanding of UV A and UV B. They might even seem like random letters to you. In reality, they are a threat to your skin and something you should be mindful of every day. More of us are starting to become aware of the dangers of ultraviolet light produced by the sun and our digital devices. This article covers everything you need to know about UV A and UV B, along with how to protect your skin.
UVA versus UVB
Let’s start by understanding what UVA and UVB means. The sun produces different ultraviolet radiation, with UVA and UVB being the ones we focus on when it comes to our skin. This electromagnetic energy attacks our skin cells and causes both short and long-term effects.
UVA has the lowest energy level, impacting the cells in the top layer and dermis of your skin. It has the highest wavelength, allowing them to penetrate further into your skin. You can see this effect taking place when you start to tan or when you notice a sunburn.
Over time, this can result in premature ageing by causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear. It can also result in some skin cancers. You can also get UVA damage from using tanning beds.
UVB is a medium level of electromagnetic energy and attacks the top layer of your skin, as it has a shorter wavelength. If you’ve ever suffered a blister from the sun, it’s thanks to UVB light. This type of light alters your DNA and can lead to skin cancer. You’ll also find it in tanning beds.
When Is UVA and UVB Light Present?
The short answer is – almost always.
It’s a common misconception that your skin can only suffer UVA or UVB damage when you’re on in the sun. UVA rays can penetrate through the glass in your home. If you spend any time sitting near a window, your skin will be vulnerable to sun damage.
Your skin is most at risk between 10 am and 4 pm, when UVA + UVB light is at its strongest. Although UV exposure is higher during the spring and summer, it’s still present in the colder months. Did you know that UVA and UVB can reflect off surfaces like water and sand?
Your location can also impact your exposure to UVA and UVB light. If you live near the equator or at a higher altitude, the UV light has a shorter distance to travel, leading to higher exposure. As the ozone layer becomes thinner, UV light can become more intense and target our skin without this protective barrier.
How Can I Protect My Skin?
Wear an SPF. It’s that simple.
You want to be wearing sunscreen that offers at least SPF 30 protection all year round. You should incorporate it as part of your daily skincare routine and reapply throughout the day, particularly after exercising. When you’re shopping for sunscreen, look for an option with zinc oxide or titanium oxide to give your skin the most protection. Make sure to stay out of the sun, wear a hat, and keep your sunglasses nearby.