Who doesn’t love the comforting rays of the sun? Although they are a pleasant source of warmth, well-being and vitamin D, we should not overlook the harmful effects that can be brought through the depleted ozone layer. Exposure to sun rays is not without consequences, and too much exposure to them can have immediate and long-term adverse health effects.
Different types of solar radiation
The sun’s rays differ from each other in their wavelengths and the amount of energy they carry. The sun’s rays are mainly composed of five different types of radiation, but today we will focus on ultraviolet (UV-A and UV-B) and infrared radiation:
UV-A, which has a relatively long wavelength, accounts for almost 95% of the UV that reaches the surface of the planet. It penetrates the dermis by 40% and is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. In addition, it also promotes skin ageing and the appearance of wrinkles.
UV-B has a medium wavelength and is mainly filtered by the atmosphere, reaching only the most superficial layers of the skin. It is responsible for tanning, sunburn and delayed burns. In addition to these short-term effects, they accelerate skin ageing and the development of skin cancers. It should be noted that exposure to UV-B is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D.
Infrared Infrared (IR) is a long-wave, low-intensity radiation that is not visible. They penetrate only into the hypodermis and are partly responsible for the heat we feel when we are exposed to the sun.
What can we do to limit the dangers of the sun?
The black pigment of the skin called melanin absorbs UV rays, helping to protect the skin. Some people’s skin naturally contains less melanin, which makes them more sensitive to UV light. There are therefore 6 distinct phototypes based on skin, eye and hair colour. The lighter the skin, the less immune it is.
The choice of sun protection is therefore essential to limit the dangers of UV rays. It will depend mainly on the skin’s phototype. The lighter the skin, hair and eyes, the higher the sun protection factor (SPF) should be. However, this does not mean that darker skin types should not protect themselves, as they are also susceptible to sunburn.
Other factors to consider :
- Your solar capital: Acquired at birth, this is our capacity to resist and repair the skin to the damaging effects of the sun… note that the level drops after each exposure.
- Danger increased by altitude: Altitude considerably increases the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation received by the skin and eyes… think about this when you go hiking in the mountains.
- Your lifestyle: you also need to choose the right sunscreen for your lifestyle. For example, choose a water and perspiration resistant sunscreen if you plan to do sports.
- The time of year: UV-B rays are less important in winter, while UV-A rays remain just as intense… however, sun protection is always necessary.
The 2 types of filters in sun creams
The organic molecules in chemical filter sunscreens interact “chemically” to absorb UV rays for you. Because they are more fluid and leave less “white” marks on the skin, they are often more pleasant to apply.
Unlike a chemical filter sunscreen, a mineral filter sunscreen does not penetrate the skin. Instead, it simply deposits a layer on the skin that will reflect UV rays mechanically. Often containing zinc or titanium dioxide, these components allow UV rays to reflect off the cream rather than penetrate the skin. This is the type recommended for newborns up to the age of 3 years for better protection.
You should also know that there are sun creams that have a combination of both mineral and chemical filters. This is often the case with index 50+ protection. They offer optimal protection thanks to the combination of the two types of filters. Apply it 30 minutes before going out in the sun, then reapply every two hours and after each swim. Guaranteed effectiveness!
Avoid unnecessary risks
Even if your sunscreen is of the highest standard, it does not exempt you from taking a few “passive” measures when you go out in the sun. Here are the natural reflexes that will protect you as well as sunscreen, and which should be combined with it:
- Expose yourself gradually to the sun, and stay in the shade as much as possible even on the beach, using umbrellas.
- Limit exposure between noon and 4 p.m, when the sun is highest in the sky and its rays are particularly strong.
- Cover your skin with protective clothing, including a hat and sunglasses, if possible.
- After exposure, always rinse off the sunscreen and moisturise the skin.
- Fill up on antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Opt for such foods as tomatoes, spinach, carrots or apricots.
Beware of some medicines that require special precautions, as they can cause skin reactions (allergies, sunburn, etc.) after exposure to the sun.