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UV Rays: What you Need to Know

apply suncreen everydayOne of the leading causes of premature aging is exposure to sunlight; that's why its so important to wear sunscreen on your face everyday.

Yes, even in the winter. Yes, even when its raining. Yes, even if you are inside all day.

Lets talk about why...

Most people know that UV rays cause burning and that the higher the SPF in a product, the more sun protection. However, a lot of people don't know how UV rays actually affect the skin, they different types of UV rays and the role antioxidants play in protecting our skin. In this blog I am going to explain how the sun affects our skin, and steps we can take to protect ourselves from premature aging and skin cancer.

First, let's talk about the different types of ultra violet radiation...

The two major concerns for our skin when it comes to UV ray exposure:

1. UVB. These rays affect the outer layer of our skin, the epidermis, and is primarily the ultraviolet light responsible for sunburn. Luckily, it does not penetrate glass well. UVB rays are most prevalent during the summer months between 10am-4pm, when the sun is at its highest.
2. UVA. These rays are equally present year-round and make up almost all of the UV rays. They can penetrate both glass and clouds. UVA rays are shorter in wavelength and penetrate deeper in the skin, into the dermis. These are the rays primarily responsible for aging the skin, causing a breakdown of collagen and elastin leading to premature fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation issues.

Both rays cause degradation of collagen and elastin, indirect inhibition of the synthesis of collagen which leads to photoaging, and oxidative stress which can lead to skin cancer (Pandel 2). Oxidative stress occurs when the amount of free radicals exceeds the body's ability to neutralize them through antioxidants. Free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species, damage cell structures and reacts with our DNA. "Permanent modification of genetic material resulting from these “oxidative damage” incidents represents the first step involved in mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and ageing" (Valko 7). When we expose our skin to UV rays we are increasing the free radicals within our skin, leading to increased risks of skin cancer and premature aging.

All of this sounds scary, but the good news is there are plenty of steps we can take to protect ourselves and our skin. The key is educating yourself and learning the techniques to stay better protected.

The 3 Best Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun:

1. Sunscreen is Your Best Friend

sunscreen applicationMost people wear sunscreen when on the beach, but to prevent sun damage and premature aging it is VITAL that you wear sunscreen everyday. This is the NUMBER ONE thing you can do to prevent skin aging. Problems arise when people don't apply enough sunscreen, or when they don't reapply often enough. This leads to a false sense of protection, and influences people to stay out in the sun longer than if they didn't have sunscreen on. This can lead to an increased chance of sunburn and oxidative stress on your body. Make sure you follow these steps to insure you and your family are safe:

  1. Use broad Spectrum SPF, which protects against UVB and UVA with an SPF of 30 or higher everyday.
  2. If you are going to be sweating or in the water, make sure to buy waterproof protection. They will ususally say sport or active on the bottle.
  3. Read the instructions carefully, re-apply often (Every 2 hours) and apply liberally.

All sunscreen on the market today fall into two categories: Chemical or Physical Sunscreen. One is not necessarily better than the other, they are just different. The differences between the two will have to be discussed in another blog post. For people with sensitivities to chemical sunscreens, pregnant/breastfeeding people, and children should consider using an all physical sunscreen. These are mineral based and contain zinc oxide and sometimes titanium dioxide.

2. Boost the Antioxidants

A study done in 2009 found that topical applications of antioxidants provide substantial photoprotection, and worked in synergy with sunscreens to provide even more protection. This study states, "Antioxidants protect the skin from the inside by neutralizing oxidative stress, a major factor of dermal structure deterioration and premature aging. " (Oresajo 116). Try to find sunscreens that have antioxidants. Its also a good idea to add antioxidant rich products in your skincare routine to naturally protect your skin everyday.

Including skincare products that contain nutrients like Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and green tea polyphenols provide a number of benefits to your skin. Vitamin C can increase collagen product, protect against damage from UV rays, correct pigmentation problems, and improve inflammation. There are many forms of vitamin C available, but my favorite is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. This is a lipid soluble stable form of vitamin C that can penetrate deeper in the skin and doesn't not cause irritation like other forms of vitamin C. Green tea polyphenols are protective against UV skin damage and have anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. (Pandel 4).

3. Wear Protective Clothing

 Wearing hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing is extremely important for everyday protection. A lot of outdoor clothing companies sell breathable UV protective clothing. Like omni-shade from Colombia: Look Here. (Not affiliated, I just think they have really good quality clothing for inexpensive prices)

 More Reading:


  1. Oresajo, Christian, et al. "Complementary effects of antioxidants and sunscreens in reducing UV-induced skin damage as demonstrated by skin biomarker expression." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy 12.3 (2010): 157-162.
  2. Pandel, Ruža, et al. "Skin photoaging and the role of antioxidants in its prevention." ISRN dermatology 2013 (2013).
  3. Valko, Marian, et al. "Free radicals and antioxidants in normal physiological functions and human disease." The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology 39.1 (2007): 44-84.

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