What damage can the sun cause to our skin?

While many of us think to protect our skin when it’s sunny, there are other aspects of sunlight that that can cause damage every day, all year round – regardless of the weather. While UVB is most harmful in the summer months on sunny days, UVA, visible light and infrared-A are present every day and can penetrate cloud and even glass.

The sun causes damage to the skin that can impair skin health and lead to premature skin ageing… in fact, sun exposure is responsible for over 80% of skin ageing! More specifically, sun exposure can:

  • Release free radicals in the skin which can damage healthy cells
  • Cause damage to skin cell DNA, altering the way cells work – over time this can lead to mutations and more serious health concerns
  • Damage our skins own immune system
  • Overstimulate our melanin production which creates areas of dark pigmentation
  • Cause collagen breakdown

Essentially, whenever it’s daylight outside we need to be thinking about protecting our skin – that’s why rather than sun protection, we talk about daylight protection! We also need to make sure we’re protecting our skin against more than just UVB…

What aspects of sunlight damage skin?

UVB

Time of year most damaging:
Summer

Depth of skin penetration:
Epidermis

Top facts:
Responsible for sun burn
SPF measures the level of protection against UVB only
Makes up 5% of UV rays that reach the skin

Can cause:

  • Sunburn
  • Free radical damage
  • DNA damage
  • Damage to skin immune system
  • Pigmentation
  • Skin cancer

UVA

Time of year most damaging:
Every day, all year round

Depth of skin penetration:
Dermis

Top facts:
95% of the UV rays that reach the skin
PA ratings measure the level of UVA protection
Responsible for 46% of sun-induced free radicals

Can cause:

  • Free radical damage
  • DNA damage
  • Damage to skin immune system
  • Pigmentation
  • Collagen breakdown
  • Skin cancer

Infrared-A

Time of year most damaging:
Every day, all year round

Depth of skin penetration:
Dermis and Hypodermis

Top facts:
65% of IR-A that reaches the skin penetrates down to the dermis
A third the sunlight that reaches the skin is IR-A

Can cause:

  • Free radical damage
  • DNA damage
  • Damage to skin immune system
  • Collagen breakdown
  • Skin cancer

Visible Light

Time of year most damaging:
Every day, all year round

Depth of skin penetration:
Epidermis and Dermis

Top facts:
Key stimulant of pigmentation
Blue light – emitted from screens – is part of the visible light spectrum

Can cause:

  • Free radical damage
  • DNA damage
  • Damage to skin immune system
  • Pigmentation
  • Collagen breakdown
  • Skin cancer

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