When we think of sunscreen, we often associate it with hot summer days spent lounging by the pool or at the beach.
But the truth is, sunscreen is not just for those occasions. In fact, it should be a daily part of our skincare routine, no matter the weather or season.
UVA and UVB: Understanding Ultraviolet Radiation
There are two types of UV radiation that can harm your skin: UVA and UVB.
UVA rays make up the majority of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. These rays are longer and are able to penetrate deeper into the skin, causing damage to the deeper layers of skin cells. UVA rays are primarily responsible for causing the skin to age prematurely and can contribute to the development of skin cancer.
UVB rays, on the other hand, are shorter, more energized, and generally only penetrate the top layers of skin. These rays are what cause sunburns.
Both types can contribute to the development of skin cancer.
Preventing Sunburns, Skin Cancer, and Signs of Aging
Most people understand that sunscreen can help prevent sunburns. Sunburns may seem like a minor inconvenience, but they can actually be quite serious. Sunburns can cause pain, swelling, and blistering, and can also weaken the immune system.
Sunscreen can also help prevent skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB rays can contribute to the development of skin cancer, and using sunscreen can help protect against this.
In addition to protecting against sunburns and skin cancer, sunscreen can also help prevent signs of aging. The sun’s rays can cause premature wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin.
Using sunscreen daily can help prevent these signs of aging and keep your skin looking youthful and healthy.
When Should You Wear Sunscreen?
Any time you are in direct sunlight, it is important to wear sunscreen. This includes activities such as hiking, swimming, and playing sports.
Even on cloudy days, it is important to wear sunscreen. While clouds do block some of the sun’s rays, they do not block all of them. UVA rays can still penetrate clouds and cause damage to your skin.
It is also important to wear sunscreen during the winter months, even if it is cold and snowy. Snow can actually reflect the sun’s rays, making it even more important to protect your skin.
Long car rides and sitting near windows can also expose you to UV radiation. Make sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin if you will be spending a significant amount of time in the car or sitting near windows.
Windows typically only block UVB rays. This means that you probably won’t get a sunburn if you are in your car or near a window. But you are still susceptible to carcinogenic UVA rays, which can penetrate windows and damage your skin cells.
Clinical research has shown that skin cancers more commonly appear on the left side—the side that is more often exposed to the sun while driving.
Also, you should still wear sunscreen even if you have a darker skin tone. While you may be less likely to burn, you can still develop skin cancer as a result of excess sun exposure.