UV Radiation Primer with 6 Easy Sun Protection Tips

Is that another sunspot on my 3 year old daughter’s face?!? We put sunscreen on her face everyday, but yes, I skip a day or two when we are rushing out the door. Pool season is here, and I have been a BAD mother. I have not properly shielded her from a life of wrinkles, saggy, rough and dull skin! Another thing for her to blame me for when she becomes eighteen. Thankfully, my non-paranoid rational brain kicks in and reminds me that it never hurts to freshen up on UV radiation and how to protect oneself from the sun.

UVA/UVB Primer

Big picture reference: UV Radiation is shorter wavelength than visible light (700-400nm) in the electromagnetic (light) spectrum.

UVA I (340-400nm) and UVA II (320-340nm) together make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, where we humans live. UVA is present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours, throughout the day, and can penetrate clouds and glass. Wait, I spend more hours in the car than I would care to discuss, and UVA penetrates glass. Plus, windows of cars do NOT have UV protective film. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB, to the dermis (skin photo-aging and wrinkles!), but does some dirty work in the epidermis layer above the dermis where it damages skin cells in the basal layer – basal, squamous, and melanocyte.

UVB (290-320nm) varies by season, location, weather, and time of day. In the northern hemisphere, significant UVB rays only make it through from about 10am to 4pm, October(ish) til March(ish), depending on what city you are in. UVB is the only ray that makes vitamin D. But to get the right amount, it has to be between those months and times on sunny days, full body exposure for about 15 minutes, depending on your skin color, age, etc. UVB tends to damage skin more superficially in the epidermis, and cause reddening and sunburn. This can be throughout the year, even with cloud cover. But bright side, UVB doesn’t really make it through glass!

Both UVA and UVB rays can have an 80% bounce rate on reflective snow, water, or ice! That’s almost double the damage! Both rays can damage and age your skin and eyes resulting in wrinkles, sagging, thinning skin, or cataracts. On the good side, both rays can be blocked or absorbed by protective clothing, hats, or the appropriate sunscreen protection, and sunglasses. We usually do these, but sometimes we forget!

Protection is Key! Make it Easy and a Habit!

  • Broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen everyday, or most days
  • Long sleeves unless it’s 90F out
  • Broad-brimmed hat when we spend time outdoors
  • But wait, I realized I had not factored in the amount of time we spend in the car. So today, I booked an appointment to get UV blocking film applied to my four door car, about $300, but lifetime warranty!
  • UV blocking Sunglasses- not the cheap kind. Get one from a reputed store. A tinted lens is not the same as a UV blocking lens.
  • And the clincher – placement of the sun accessories by the door with a mirror, especially if you have children. Visual cue to start the sun protection habit.

Do you have any additional ideas on sun protection? Please share! I need all the help I can get.

A UV primer only gets you so far. Next up, I have to dig deep and consider whether to sacrifice sun protection for Vitamin D (there’s a whole host of research on why vitamin D is great for you!) and find out more about how UV rays affect the skin and eyes. Then ingredients that block and absorb, clothing that protects – SPF and UPF…. Anything else you can think of so I can learn more to keep my daughters’ skin healthy and dewy? And mine as well!

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