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Before understanding the consequences of skipping sunscreen, it is important to note how UV radiation works and affects the skin. UV radiation ranges from a wavelength of 100 to 400 nanometres. UVA and UVB rays are somewhere in the 300 to 400 range. UV radiation is divided into 3 main groups:
UVA rays have the least energy among UV rays. These rays can cause skin cells to age and can cause some indirect damage to cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.
UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage the DNA in skin cells directly and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays. Fortunately, because of this, they react with ozone high in our atmosphere and do not reach the ground, so they are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer. But UVC rays can also come from some man-made sources, such as arc welding torches, mercury lamps, and UV sanitising bulbs used to kill bacteria and other germs (such as in water, air, food, or on surfaces).
How are people exposed to UV radiation?
Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, even though UV rays make up only a small portion of the sun’s rays. Different types of UV rays reach the ground in different amounts. About 95% of the UV rays from the sun that reach the ground are UVA rays, with the remaining 5% being UVB rays. UVA is not visible and is there 365 days of the year. It enters your skin like an Xray damaging deeper into the skin. Sunscreens were originally invented for UVB rays because we suspected for years that these rays caused sun damage in the form of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (two forms of skin cancer). A few years ago, research showed that UVA rays, the rays that we held responsible for wrinkles and dramatic skin ageing, were also causing melanoma. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “melanoma accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases, you should always look for “broad-spectrum” (which means it offers protection against both UVB and UVA rays) on the label of your sunscreen. If you need a recommendation, we love the SkinCeuticals factor 50 Sunscreens, the Heliocare and Dermaceutic SPF's which are a all-in-one face moisturiser with SPF 50 that gives long-lasting hydration and helps protect the skin from sun damage. Combine with a triple antioxidant for superior protection.
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