Just about everyone enjoys a bright sunny day, but did you know that the sun can cause damage that you can’t even see? Ultraviolet rays are energy that comes from the sun that can cause damage in many ways. Everyone’s skin ages at a different rate, but most people will begin to see age-related changes at around age 28. At that age, the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) begins to thin and the normal renewal capacity of the dermis (next layer) becomes less elastic. The effects of the sun on aging skin can show up as brown spots, areas of redness, wrinkles, and thinner appearing skin. The sun is one of the main culprits for accelerating these age-related changes.
There are 2 types of ultraviolet rays that can cause damage:
- UVA- these are the rays that are the longest, and most powerful, and can come through even on a cloudy day. UVA rays are about the same year-round, so there is always risk of over-exposure. Exposure to UVA rays reduces the amount of collagen (elastic portion) in the skin, and results in wrinkles, thinning of the skin layers, and dilation of the tiny surface blood vessels. The UVA rays cause the most damage, as they can penetrate auto glass, some clothing and even office/home windows. If you commute a long distance in your car, you might notice brown spots on your hands- that may be due to UVA exposure of your hands on the steering wheel. Tanning beds are especially dangerous, as they emit UVA rays and can increase the risk of skin cancers.
- UVB- these are the rays that most commonly cause sunburn, age spots and freckles, as they penetrate the outer layer of the skin more easily. Because UVB rays typically penetrate the outer skin layer, they are also more dangerous and are more often associated with the development of skin cancers. UVB rays are typically stronger in the summer, in higher elevations and in locations closest to the equator, however, they do not penetrate glass as easily as UVA rays. Both UVA and UVB rays can accelerate the development of cataracts and eye damage.
High risk individuals
- Those who work out in the sun (construction/roofers/street workers/landscapers)
- Those who have fair or light colored skin
- Anyone with a family history of skin cancer
- Anyone with a family history of cataracts
- Anyone who lives in high elevations or near the equator
- Persons who take certain medications (always review the medication insert for precautions)
- Elderly individuals, infants and small children
- Persons with illnesses that suppress the immune system