WHAT IS BROAD SPECTRUM?
After a long, cold winter, I crave the sun's rays on my skin! However, its UVA and UVB rays are damaging and can even be deadly. Using a sunscreen whose spectrum is "broad" enough to protect skin from the danger of both UVA and UVB rays, is the key to safe summer play.
Think of UVA rays as the ultra violet "aging" rays. These rays are the cause of pre-mature fine lines and wrinkles which appear on the face and décolleté. UVB are the ultra violet "burning" rays which emit radiation that cause hyper-pigmentation, freckling, sunburn and skin cancer. Although UVB rays do not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA (see photo below), it emits more energy, causing more skin damage. UVB, burning, rays specifically target the DNA of the skin cells, which is reason enough to wear a good quality broad spectrum. If the DNA of a cell can be compromised, you need to educate yourself about how to proactively protect the skin.
As you can see from the diagram above, UVA rays, although less powerful, penetrate DEEPER into the skin. Did you know that UVA damage is cumulative? A little exposure, here and there, over time, will add up. The effects are non-negotiable and require a conscious effort to protect the skin.
TOOLS TO HELP YOU MEASURE
The "UV Index" is a tool designed by the National Weather Service and the EPA to help the public plan their outdoor activities whist being conscious of the intensity of the radiation emitted in your area.
The UV Index predicts the risk of overexposure to the sun by calculating UV intensity levels, using a 1- 11+ scale. If the number is low (such as 1 or 2), the risk of overexposure is minimal. A high number (like 10 or 11) indicates a severe risk. The UV Index takes into account the weather condition, time of year, elevation, latitude and amount of ozone coverage for a particular area (see chart below).
Although the UV Index guide is a terrific tool, do not allow it to dictate your use of sunscreen. Always wear broad spectrum coverage, regardless of the number on the chart. Your skin's biology is different from anyone else, and will react differently to a #3 index than mine would, for example. Be proactive, be safe and enjoy the sun in healthy moderation.
Thank you to the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine for the research and data included in this post.
--CIAO for now xo
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