What in the world is UVA and UVB? How do they affect us? And why should I care?
We’re going to break down this confusing topic so you can stay informed and spend your time under the sun with confidence.
Love it or hate it, ultraviolet (UV) rays are part of the light spectrum, and something we have to live with. The UV radiation comes in the form of UVA rays and UVB rays that penetrate the atmosphere and hit the earth. Both UVA and UVB radiation is damaging to the skin, so sun exposure must be intentional and measured. We’ll talk more about the risks, but first it’s important to understand the difference between UVA and UVB.
This type of ultraviolet radiation is by far the most prevalent, accounting for upwards of 95% of the sun’s radiation that reaches the earth. Although there’s more of it, and although it’s proven to penetrate the skin much deeper than UVB (into the subcutaneous layer), it has traditionally been thought of as less harmful than UVB. . . until recently. Researchers have found that UVA rays do in fact damage skin cells of the epidermis, which is the outer-layer of the skin where most skin cancers originate. And those who tan under a bed-of-bulbs can bet on getting a heavy dose of UVA. Over time, they’ll likely experience wrinkling and skin aging, if not worse.
These ultraviolets rarely penetrate deeper than the epidermis. Nevertheless, they pack their own punch by causing sunburn, premature photo-aging, and yes, even skin cancer. Unlike UVA rays, which are present in roughly the same force throughout the day and year, UVB radiation is most extreme during peak hours of the day (10am-4pm), and from spring until fall. Sun-goers should take extra precaution at higher altitudes and while on the ski slopes, as UVB rays are tenacious in reflecting off of snow and ice to penetrate the skin for a second time around.
Both UVA and UVB are potentially deadly forms of radiation. And with skin cancer at an all-time high — with nearly 90,000 cases of melanoma expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 alone — be sure to take preventative measures, respect the sun, and be mindful of your exposure to it.
Keep an eye out for more informative articles as well as tips and tricks to stay safe out there!+