Why is it good to know about UV and what it matters to our skin?
The skin serves as a protective layer shielding from outside factors and protecting the body’s inside. This protection is perfected applying multiple processes like maintaining the appropriate temperature, moisture, shielding against bacteria, filtering substances to be absorbed etc.
As these multiple factors are essential features of our environment, one of them is light. Our daylight consists of a spectrum of electromagnetic waves with different wavelengths and of specific energy.
Other kinds of waves are applied in microwave ovens or in radios. The physical phenomenon “light” has wavelengths of light that are visible to our human eye, and those that are invisible, beyond (latin= ultra and infra) visibility for us: ultraviolet and infrared. Ultraviolet is abbreviated UV.
All these waves of light contain a specific amount of energy and transmit this energy over long distances. UV light is particularly strong in energy.
Daylight originates from the sun and transmits energy from sun to earth: warming our atmosphere and planet, creating plentiful other phenomena.
We know that plants grow with the energy from light. When we burn wood, we for instance release that energy again: the fire is releasing energy from the sun.
UV-radiation too is energy, yet we cannot see or feel it right away, but we feel it later, if we absorbed too much of this energy: it shows in redness of the skin and other physiological signs of inflammation in extreme cases like a burn wound. In this case that we had too much “fire” in our skin we have in fact absorbed too much energy from the sun.
Too much energy harms our body, causes changes in our DNA, contributes to creating radicals, these are biochemically altered molecules in our body that cause further alterations within the skin cells.
The body has multiple options to repair alterations within the body and especially in the skin. Yet, this self-repair, this re-generation has limitations too.
UV-radiation can cause permanent changes in the skin that can be measured as UV-damage. This UV-damage increases micro scaring, with more wrinkling and spots of hyperpigmentation. Some invisible changes correlate with the risk for diseases of the skin, specifically it is a significant risk factor for skin cancer (i.e. melanoma).
The skin can to a certain degree adapt to the light’s energy by creating more pigments that absorb the energy. The level of pigmentation can increase and thus improve absorbing more UV-energy. This adaptive process takes time and has limitations.
Therefore, we must add sunscreen to our skin before exposing it to sunlight, to avoid over-stressing the skin’s ability to protect itself. With either physical UV-filters reflecting UV light or chemical filters neutralising the harming effect of UV radiation we can add a protective layer to our skin to avoid damage beforehand and not over-stressing our immunological reaction to protect or regenerate. UV filters are effective, if applied correctly and the sunscreen fulfils the high requirements for quality and comfort of application.