|Understanding Summer Skin Care
Now that summer is here, sun protection is more important than ever. While you should use a skin care regimen that protects your skin year-round, most people get more sun exposure during the summer months. Nothing damages the skin more than the impact of UV rays, which cause the breakdown of skin-firming collagen and the damage of skin-smoothing elastin. Sun exposure also damages the pigment melanin in your skin, which means that later on you’ll need to find a way to remove and fade age spots and sun spots. That’s just one of the reasons why you need to be responsible about sun protection. But before you stock up on sunscreen, here are four important terms you should know.
UVB: The term UVB refers to the sun’s short-wave ultraviolet rays, which damage the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer, causing sunburns and contributing to long-term sun damage and skin cancers. UVB rays are strongest in the middle of the day and peak during the summer months, when the sun’s visible light is also at its most intense. Because these rays can’t penetrate glass, many people incorrectly assume that they’re shielded from all harmful UV radiation when inside their offices, homes or cars.
UVA: The term UVA refers to the sun’s long-wave ultraviolet rays. Unlike UVB rays, UVA energy penetrates deep into the skin, where it causes long-term damage to connective tissue and DNA—damage that is potentially more significant than UVB damage in the epidermis. UVA rays are especially dangerous because overexposure doesn’t create any discomfort or produce visible signs, such as sunburn. What’s more, UVA rays are an unrelenting threat that is at a constant level of intensity, regardless of time of day or season. The strength of the ray is so intense it can penetrate through glass as well as deep into the lower layers of the epidermis, triggering melanocytes to produce a dark pigment called melanin, which gives sun-damaged skin a tan appearance.
SPF: The SPF rating system was designed to provide some indication of how much protection from burning UVB rays a product offered. In essence, a product’s SPF level indicates how much longer you’ll be protected from UVB rays than you would if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. So, for example, if you typically burn in 10 minutes without protection, an SPF of 15 would protect your skin for 150 minutes. Unfortunately, sun products that only shield our skin from UVB rays will help us to avoid sunburn, but will not protect our skin from the full range of sun-related damage that can lead to premature aging and cancers. Only products that specifically offer broad spectrum protection against UVB and UVA can help defend our skin against the full range of sun damage: sunburn, sun spots, wrinkles, sagging, cancers and textural changes.
PA: The emerging international PA rating system indicates a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVA rays. There are three PA grades: PA+ indicates some UVA protection, PA++ indicates moderate UVA protection and PA+++ indicates good UVA protection.
As you’re shopping for skin care products and sun protection products for the summer months, pay attention to both their SPF and PA ratings. For the highest level of sun protection, look for products that have both a high SPF to ensure UVB protection and a PA rating for UVA coverage.