Understanding the risks of excess sun exposure

Exposing yourself to the sun on a daily basis isn’t always bad for your health, especially since the sun is a major source of vitamin D. However, sun exposure is only healthy in moderation, since too much exposure can result in major skin problems, such as uneven pigmentation, wrinkling, and in some cases, skin cancer.

Ideally, you should spend no more than 15 minutes in the sun before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. Spending more than 15 minutes in the sun at any time is generally considered overexposure, and should be avoided at all costs to maintain good skin health and a youthful appearance.

The difference between UVA and UVB sun rays

Several years ago, skincare professionals and the general population made no distinction between UVA and UVB when referring to the sun and its damaging rays, and referred to these rays as UV rays. However, a number of medical studies that have been performed within the last few decades have identified and noted that there are two different types of UV rays: UVA rays and UVB rays.

UVA rays are far less intense than UVB rays but are between 30 and 50 times more prevalent than UVB rays on any given day — even those that are cloudy and overcast. UVA rays often cause sunspots and wrinkles, and even have the ability to penetrate through glass windows and into the skin. Since our skin is exposed more often to UVA rays than UVB rays, UVA rays can speed up the aging process and often initiate the development of skin cancer.

On the other hand, UVB rays are more intense than UVA rays, and as a result, are far more damaging to the surface of the skin. UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn, changes in skin pigmentation, the development of age spots, and tumors that can eventually develop into skin cancer. Unlike UVA rays, which are consistent even in the cloudiest of weather circumstances, the intensity of UVB rays tends to differ depending on the season, geographical location, time of day, and weather conditions.

The role of excess sun exposure in the aging process

Approximately 90 percent of all wrinkles are caused by excess sun exposure, which can also lead to signs of aging such as freckles, thinner skin, uneven skin pigmentation, and sunspots or age spots. Although laying out in the sun for sunbathing and tanning purposes may seem like the most obvious activity that would trigger sun damage, two-thirds of all sun damage is actually caused by normal, everyday activities such as driving in your car, walking your dog, and shopping at outdoor venues.

Protecting your skin

When spending any time outdoors regardless of the season or weather conditions, it’s important to apply sunscreen on a regular basis to prevent skin damage and to slow down the aging process. Purchase sunscreen products that offer protection from UVA and UVB rays — since both types of rays can trigger different types of skin damage. When purchasing everyday skincare products such as lotion, makeup, and moisturizers, look for products that contain SPF for added protection. Lastly, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your hands, since your hands are the body part most exposed to the sun when driving, and are often more prone to revealing your true age.

Rock Creek Wellness offers a number of aesthetic services and skincare products in Kansas City designed to help you look and feel your best. Reveal the beautiful, youthful skin that is hiding under years of stress and free-radical damage through our pharmaceutical-grade aesthetic services. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation or sign up to receive a 10 percent off coupon on our line of skincare products.