Just How Powerful are UV Rays?

UV Rays are reaching us all

Whether you’re buying sunscreen or sunglasses, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of, “protects against UVA rays,” or perhaps, “protects against UVB rays.” You might have even heard, “protects against UVA/UVB rays.” So what’s the deal with these different types of UV rays? Just how many different kinds of ammunition is the sun hurling at us? Fortunately, the list isn’t as long as our entire alphabet. The most relevant types of UV rays for us are types A, B, and C. Let’s take a look at each one and figure out the differences.

Type A

Our first ray is the MOST powerful one. It has a long wavelength, meaning its wave is not as “squished” as the waves of UVB or UVC. Check out the image below to see what we’re talking about.

This allows UVA rays to travel all the way through our atmosphere, past the surface of our skin, and into our lower layer of skin called the dermis. While they don’t create the sensation of a “burn,” they do affect our skin in the sense of aging. This effect causes premature wrinkles known as “photoaging.” Remember Benjamin Button? Well, it’s not that extreme, but it’s still something that you want to avoid. Messing with your skin’s cells on your lower layers of skin can cause… you guessed it: melanoma. That’s skin cancer, for those of you unfamiliar with the term. Please remember that this kind of UV ray can pass through windows like the ones at home or in the car. This means you need to wear sunscreen if you’re in for a long drive during the day.

Type B

The main culprit: UVB rays. Have you ever gotten a sunburn? This ray right here is the reason why. UVB rays don’t have as long of a wavelength as UVA ones, so they only make it to the surface of your skin, or epidermis as you might hear it called. As it hits your skin’s surface, it starts to mess with your skin cells, and if left long enough, it will not only burn your skin, but also damage the DNA in those skin cells. This leads to… you guessed it: melanoma. The difference here is that you feel the actual pain of the burn the whole time as your skin is being damaged. UVB rays can vary in intensity based on the season and time of day. 10:00am-4:00pm during the summer are typically the strongest hours, and you can probably remember that pretty easily because those are the hottest hours anyway! Most sunscreen products that you purchase will be geared toward protecting your skin from UVB rays above all else. These rays don’t make it through the windows, which is probably why you’ve felt heat, but probably haven’t ever gotten a real sunburn while in the car or at home by the window.

Type C

Finally, UVC rays are actually not as worrisome as the other ones. Technically, with such a short wavelength, these rays could be very damaging to our skin, but our planet’s atmosphere almost always filters our UVC once it reaches the Ozone layer. This is why it’s so important, among other reason. We may never come into contact with UVC rays while living on Earth. However, if you find yourself traveling into space sometime, remember to protect your skin against UVC rays!

Though it sets, it returns every day with its UV rays...

We know that some of you have many more questions regarding sunscreen, particularly SPF. We will be addressing those frequently asked questions here on our blog and on our Facebook page this month! Please comment or message us any questions you might have, because we love answering them!

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