UV rays, UV damage, UVB rays

Differences between UVA and UVB Rays You Should Know to Protect Your Skin

September 25, 2019

We are all scared of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Actually the UV radiation contains various types of rays of which we commonly know the UVA and UVB rays. The effects of these rays on our skin are different from each other.

Earth’s Wisdom today wants to let readers know more about the differences between UVA and UVB rays, their effect on skin and what can be done to reduce UV damage.

UV Radiation – What is it?

UV radiation is a type of electromagnetic energy. There are natural sources of UV rays, like sunlight, and also, artificial sources like black lights, lasers and tanning beds.

However, the most significant source of UV rays is the sun. UV rays are formed from a nuclear reaction taking place at the sun’s core, and the radiation travels to the earth through the sun’s rays.

UV rays are categorized on the basis of their wavelength: UVA rays have the longest wavelength, UVB rays have medium wavelength and the UVC have shortest wavelength.

What You Should Know about UVA Rays

Here are a few important points to remember about UVA rays and what effects they have on skin:

  • UVA rays have higher wavelengths, but lower energy levels as compared to other UV rays
  • The penetrating ability of UVA rays is higher than that of UVB rays; thus they can affect cells deeper inside the skin
  • DNA is indirectly damaged by UVA rays
  • Because of them, skin ages prematurely and gets wrinkles. They even can cause some skin cancers
  • Effects of UVA rays are seen immediately. They cause instant tanning effects and sometimes even sunburn
  • Tanning beds mainly use UVA rays
  • UVA rays, unlike UVB rays, are not absorbed by the ozone layer. Approximately 95% of the UV rays reaching the earth are UVA rays.
  • They can make their way through clouds and windows

What You Should Know about UVB Rays

Here are some important points to remember about UVB rays and what effects they have on skin:

  • UVB rays have shorter wavelengths but higher energy levels than UVA rays
  • Only the outermost layers of skin are damaged by UVB rays
  • DNA is directly damaged by UVB rays
  • Most skin cancers are caused by UVB rays; they can also contribute to premature aging of skin
  • The ozone layer can partially absorb them; still, some of them pass through it. Almost 5% of UV rays reaching the earth are UVB rays
  • Excessive exposure to UVB rays results in sunburns. Normally the effects of UVB rays are seen after a few hours after sun exposure
  • Most tanning beds use a mix of UVA and UVB rays. Specialized tanning beds containing only UVB rays are advertised as safe, but they do cause skin damage. The fact is that there is no safe tanning bed out there
  • They don’t pass through windows and tend to be filtered by clouds

Steps to Protect Your Skin

You should protect your skin from sun’s rays so as to keep it healthy, especially if you will be going out in the sun for a prolonged time. Here are a few tips.

Apply Sunscreen

Use sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection. Such a sunscreen can block UVA as well as UVB rays.

More protection is provided by a higher sun protection factor (SPF). But note that no sunscreen can offer 100% protection from UV rays. It’s recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to use a sunscreen having SPF 30 or more.

Cover Yourself

Clothes made from tightly-woven dry fabrics can protect from UV damage.

Stay in Shade

Avoid direct sunlight by staying in shade. This should be essentially done from 10 AM to 4 PM when UV rays are stronger.

Wear a Hat and Sunglasses

A wide-brimmed hat can offer protection to your skin on ears and neck, while sunglasses can protect your eyes.

Vitamin D

When it comes to vitamin D, AAD recommends to take it from a healthy diet containing foods that have vitamin D, e.g. fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna, egg yolks, maitake mushrooms etc. rather than exposing yourself to sunlight.

Remember these points while going out in the sun next time and protect your skin.


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