Summer, sun, sunburn - how does UV radiation affect the skin?

Like all other creatures, humans could not live without the sun. Its light gives warmth, increases vitality and puts you in a good mood. Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays, or UV rays for short. They provide you with vitamin D3, which your body needs for numerous processes and uses everywhere in its organism. However, UV radiation by no means only has positive effects and can cause considerable damage to your skin. Here you can find out why you should protect your largest organ from the sun's rays.


What is UV light?

UV rays are light waves in the wavelength range from 100 to 400 nanometers. UVA rays are long-wave and penetrate into the basal cell layer. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and higher energy. 90 percent of them are filtered out by the ozone layer, which is why only a small part ends up on the earth's surface. The very short-wave UVC rays are completely filtered out and therefore do not reach the earth.


What effect does UV radiation have on the skin?


UVB radiation

Different types of UV radiation affect the skin differently. Many people are aware of the risk of skin cancer associated with intense sun exposure. This is due to the UVB rays that penetrate the so-called epidermis (upper skin). Here they can not only cause sunburn, but also cause long-term damage, which in the worst case leads to skin cancer. The skin reacts to UVB light with a natural protective reaction: it forms more melanin, which partly prevents further radiation from penetrating the skin's surface. Of course, that doesn't mean you should skip sunscreen: melanin is a sign that the skin has already been damaged. It can also only filter out small amounts of UV light and therefore does not offer sufficient sun protection.


UVA radiation

UVA waves penetrate deep into the dermis (skin). Unlike UVB rays, they do not cause sunburn and can therefore cause damage unnoticed. In the deep skin layer, they promote the formation of free radicals and cause cell damage. The skin loses elasticity and moisture and forms wrinkles earlier. This gradual process is often only noticed when the skin is already significantly damaged.


How do you protect your skin from UV radiation?


Sunscreen with high SPF

Thankfully, the superstition that sunscreen is only necessary on the beach is fading. Your skin is not only exposed to the sun on summer vacation, but every day. This applies regardless of the weather or the season. Even through the cloudy sky enough UV rays penetrate to cause lasting damage. Even if you stay indoors all day long, you should not do without sun protection: UV light shines through window panes almost unhindered and can therefore also have an effect indoors.

You protect your skin from UV radiation by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least SPF 30 every day. Applying in the morning alone is not enough: you should renew your protection every two hours. If you swim in the sea or in the pool, it will decrease faster anyway, which is why you should apply sunscreen after every swim.


Avoid the midday sun

Even sunscreen with an SPF 50+ does not protect your skin 100 percent from UV radiation. If you apply too small amounts, the protection is also significantly reduced. Therefore, even if you use sunscreen every day, you should avoid the midday sun. At this time of day, the UV radiation is particularly intense, which is why you are better off staying in the shade or inside buildings.


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Tatiana Frick