I know that every time you get on the internet and stumble into the skincare community, it seems like everyone is begging you to use sunscreen. We’re shoving it down your throat, and you don’t even think it’s necessary. But the thing is, it is. It is of utmost importance, and here’s why. The sun rays consist of UVA rays and UVB rays (the ozone layer absorbs UVC rays), and even though you can’t see them, they can see you always! Even on cloudy days and they even penetrate/ pass through glass.
How the sun rays damage the skin
The skin consists of the hypodermis (bottom layer), dermis (middle layer), and epidermis (top layer). The dermis houses the blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, and glands. The epidermis comprises keratinocytes, melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), and Langerhans cells.
UVA rays have longer wavelengths that penetrate deeper into the skin’s dermis than UVB. UVA wavelengths have a lower frequency and so are less energetic. The epidermis and dermis absorb UVA radiation. Long wavelengths have low energy or frequency and are less intense; 95% of solar radiation is UVA, which is up to 50 times more prevalent than UVB. UVA affect the dermis, as well as collagen and elastin. It also causes DNA damage from free radicals and can cause skin cancer.
UVA is the dominant cause of hyperpigmentation, wrinkling, and premature ageing
UVB has shorter wavelengths and is stronger than UVA because it delivers more energy. The epidermis almost completely absorbs UVB. UVB is the main cause of sunburns, tanning, skin ageing, and skin cancers.
The sun rays go deep into the skin and trigger the melanin-producing cells to produce excessive melanin, leading to hyperpigmentation that will appear as the sunburns imminent parts of the body in contact with the sun, such as the cheeks near the eyes. This also seems post-inflammatory after an injury to the skin, such as acne/pimples or trauma.
The sun rays also break down the elastin and collagen (proteins) in the skin. This makes the skin lose elasticity and start to sag and age prematurely. These proteins also uphold the pores of the skin. When they break down, the pores ‘gape opens’ and enlarge, making it easy to get themed, resulting in breakouts. It worsens acne and promotes its development.
The sun rays also generate free radicals in the skin, which further breaks down the proteins in the skin.
Healthy Habits for the Skin
Preventative measures for the skin include avoiding the sun and wearing protective clothing, hats, shades, and sunscreen. This is the best basic protection for the skin.
Helpful tips for using physical sunscreen-
1. Wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 daily.
2. Avoid the sun at peak hours, 10-4.
3. Use the right amount. 2 fingers full, not a pea-size. Be very generous with the application for full coverage and adequate protection.
4. Apply sunscreen every 2-3hrs throughout the day and after swimming.
5. Use broad-spectrum and high SPF (30 and above)to filter out UVA and UVB rays.
6. Remove/wash off the sunscreen at the end of the day. It shouldn’t be used at night, as it clogs the pores.
7. Wear sunscreen even while at home. The sun’s rays penetrate glass.
8. Use anti-oxidants to buffer the effects of the free radicals generated by the sun rays and support sunscreen in offering protection to the skin.