Summer is the easiest time of the year for many people, but it is also the easiest time to get exposed to harmful UVA & UVB rays. It is already a common fact that these two are the deadliest culprits in causing skin damage, or worse—skin cancer—and the number of those who are affected keep growing by the day. So how do you protect yourself from UVA & UVB rays?
First things first, this article DOES NOT advise against sun exposure; it only recommends ways through which you can protect yourself from the detrimental effects of these rays. Remember, sunshine only becomes damaging when you get excessive UVA & UVB rays, otherwise conservative daily sunshine for vitamin D is critical cornerstone for perfect health (1). What you should actually be wary of is the application of topical, chemical-laden sunscreens that have clogged the market today. Laboratory studies have indicated that most of these SPF-fortified moisturizers and topical-sunscreens mimic your bodily hormones which can result in unintended human health consequence such as sunscreen-related allergies, skin damage, as well as skin cancer (2).
What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
The sunlight is made up of two UV radiations: the Short Wave Ultraviolet (UVB) rays and the Long Wave Ultraviolet (UVA) rays. UVA account for up to 95% of the ultraviolet rays that reaches the earth surface meaning that we are exposed these rays than the UVB rays. And although they are less intense than the UVB rays, these rays penetrate the skin deeper to the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Excessive exposure to UVA rays normally leads to wrinkling, skin aging (photo-aging), and the clampdown of the immunity system. On the other hand, UVB rays normally burn the shallow layer of your skin which plays a critical role in the development of skin cancer. The intensity of the UVB rays varies by time of the day (with peak hours being 10 am to 4 Pm) as well as location and season.
You should seek preventive measures against UV rays at all times, whether you are outdoors or indoors. Always seek the shade while you are conduction your outdoor activities, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. You should also dress to limit exposure—there are special clothes with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) that indicate how much UVA or UVB rays can penetrate the fabric. Glasses and hats are also recommended. Sunscreens are also helpful, but this is an area where we put alarming question marks! Do you take a moment to understand what components make up the sunscreens you smear on your skin?
According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), 75% of topical sunscreens out there contain toxic chemicals that increase your risk of skin cancer and other health issues (3). According to their analysis, some ingredients used in most sunscreen products have detrimental toxic effects when absorbed into the bloodstream. Some act as estrogen and greatly disrupt your hormones, while others cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Recent studies have also linked convectional sunscreens with ingredients such as PABA, methoxycinnamate, and oxybenzone estrogenic chemicals that are strongly linked to skin cancer (4). This explains why millions of people around the world are diagnosed with skin cancer every year even though most confess to using sunscreens religiously. The following chemical components in some sunscreen products have each been linked with one or the other damaging effect on your skin and general health. If your sunscreen contain one of these, kick it out of your beauty cabinet!
Nutritional Ways to Fight UV Rays
Sunscreen is a big business; we all know that. There seems to be an underlying idea that sun exposure leads to skin cancer and that conventional sunscreens are the cure. However, most recent and credible studies point to the contrary as we have already seen. Now we turn to the best, safest ways to protect yourself from harmful UV rays with every day nutrition.—yes, everyday diets can be the perfect sunscreen for you! In this article, we focus on some of the best vitamins that act as sunscreens from the inside out.
Vitamins A, C, and E have been proven to curb some of the most damaging effects of the free radicals caused by the UVA and UVB rays. These antioxidants protect the skin’s molecular targets by rummaging the oxygen species, suppress cellular and tissue responses such as inflammation, and also modulate stress-dependent signaling. For instance, eating green foods that are rich in Vitamin C while also munching on almonds to boost your Vitamin E intake have been seen to boost your from damages caused by the UV rays (5). And because Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, it has been said to be important for both a sunscreen and a cancer-fighting vitamin. It is vital to obtain these essential vitamins from foods such as broccoli, red pepper, cantaloupe, and spinach (for vitamin A and C). You can also get Vitamin E from some of these foods, but the best sources include broccoli, spinach, peanut, hazelnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
There you have it folks; the basic things you need to know about UVA and UVB rays, how they are harmful to your skin, and how you can protect yourself against their harmful effects. It is important to note that the sun does not cause skin cancer, it is excessive exposure to its harmful UV rays that does the damage. Getting a moderate amount of sunshine daily is actually very helpful as it is the best source of Vitamin D3 (Calciferol)—which not only makes your skin radiant, but is also essential in boosting the immune system (6), improve your mood, and help fight certain types of cancers. We have taken you through some of the essential vitamins that can act as sunscreens for your summer needs. Make sure you fill up your grocery basket with some of these items.