Protecting Our Skin From The Sun Rays
The sun is a source of health and is essential to produce vitamin D, so we must take it and enjoy it, but with some care protecting our skin from the sun rays.
We always talk about ultraviolet rays as if they were the only ones with the harmful effect of solar radiation. In fact, the spectrum of solar radiation is wide and is composed of gamma rays, X rays, ultraviolet A, B and C, visible rays, and infrared A, B, and C.
Of all of them, only ultraviolet A and B, visible light, and infrared A, B, and C reach the earth’s surface. On the other hand, our skin absorbs, at different levels, not only ultraviolet rays but also type A infrared rays, which cause events such as sunburn and heatstroke that tend to accelerate the skin aging process.
Type A infrared rays cause damage deep down the skin, i.e., they reach the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis, the three layers that make up the skin. This can wreak havoc on the skin’s elasticity and firmness.
The ability to penetrate profoundly is a characteristic of infrared A since ultraviolet cannot penetrate so deeply.
Another difference is that type A infrared accounts for 40% of all the solar radiation we receive, while the ultraviolet range only represents 6%.
Type A infrared rays tend to produce dry heat, which means that they do not raise the temperature of the skin’s surface, meaning that we do not feel that we are being harmed even though they can heat the depths of the skin to over 100°F.
When the skin’s deep layer reaches that temperature, it suffers the effects of a phenomenon known as thermal stress that increases the number of free radicals and deteriorates healthy cells, causing premature skin aging.
This high subcutaneous temperature creates the perfect conditions for ultraviolet A, in addition to infrared A, to reach deep skin and cause a disruption in cellular information, often leading to some cells becoming cancerous.
This protection should start from childhood, as the sun’s effects accumulate over the years and can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer in the future.
We Must Take Into Account
- Avoid exposure from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
- Exposure is more notable in the high mountains and the tropics.
- In summer the solar radiation is higher, but we must also protect ourselves for the rest of the year.
- On a cloudy day, the risk of burning exists, as 90% of the rays pass through the clouds.
- Snow, water, and sand reflect the sun’s rays, increasing their effect on the skin.
- Type of Protective Clothing
- The use of protective clothing is more effective than protective creams.
- Wear a hat or cap.
- Wear T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, long pants.
- Tightly woven, light-colored fabrics protect better. Some fine fabrics let the sun’s rays through.
- Water makes fabrics translucent.
- Wear sunglasses.
The creams are classified according to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
Low: 2 – 6
Average: 8 – 12
High: 15 – 25
Very high: 30 – 50
Ultra: + 50
Creams with a high degree of protection are indicated for light skin that tans easily (phototype III-IV) and does not suffer from skin diseases.
Creams with very high protection are indicated for fair skins that burn easily and tan with difficulty (phototype II-III). In children, the use of this type of cream is advised.
Creams with ultra protection are reserved for very white skin that always burns (phototype I-II) and for patients with skin diseases who must limit their exposure to the sun.
Tips for Sun Protection
- Avoid exposing children under the age of 3 to the sun.
- Protect your skin, and especially children’s skin, with photo-protectors and appropriate clothing whenever you do outdoor activities even on cloudy days.
- Apply the sunscreen cream at least half an hour before exposure to the sun.
- Apply the sunscreen cream regularly.
- Avoid exposure to the sun during the central hours of the day or falling asleep while exposed.
- Apply moisturizer to your skin after sun exposure.
- Once opened, do not keep the sunscreen cream from one year to the next.
- Don’t forget to protect your eyes from solar radiation as well.
- To Protect Against UV Radiation
- Stay in the shade, especially during the central hours of the day
- Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs
- Protect children in particular
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers your face, head, ears, and neck
- Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
- Use sunscreen with a factor of 15 or higher for both UVA and UVB protection
To Protect Against Infrared A Radiation
Using a sunscreen with a high protection factor is not enough. Most sunscreen creams are effective against UVA and UVB rays, but they do not protect against type A infrared radiation.
Although some products are indeed enriching their sunscreens with some active elements with an antioxidant effect to prevent infrared A from damaging the skin, usually, it is not the case that these are included.
If we have a sunscreen of the kind commonly found in the stores and we want it to work against infrared A rays and their oxidizing effect as well, then we can mix it in our hand with a portion of some antioxidant such as vitamin C, E, or A, to have a more complete and effective sunscreen.
Note that infrared A radiation is more present than the ultraviolet type. It reaches deep into the skin, damages cellular DNA, affects the elasticity and firmness of tissue, stimulates the production of free radicals, and creates conditions for the ultraviolet to cause more damage than they already do.