Many of us think that only direct sun exposure can damage the skin. But because there’s more to natural light than just sunburn-causing rays primarily caused by UVB, we also have to protect our skin from the insidious effects of UVA rays, which penetrate into the dermal layers of the skin and cause wrinkles, brown spots, uneven pigment, and most dangerous of all, skin cancers.
Sneaky Ways You Are Getting Sun Damage
What makes us complacent about skin protection is the fact that UVA rays don’t directly cause sunburn, a kind of damage that we can feel and see, but rather slowly create damage at the cellular level over time, until one day, you wonder why, all of a sudden, you are getting wrinkles and sagging skin. To give you an idea of how you may be accumulating UVA damage without you knowing it, here are some of the ways that UVA sneaks into your daily life.
- Riding in the car
You probably haven’t heard of a ‘trucker’s face’ yet, but it’s something you don’t want to happen to your face years from now.
In recent years, the New England Journal of Medicine published an image of a trucker whose one side of the face shows severe thickening, wrinkling and sagging while the other side of the face only showed wrinkling and sagging consistent with the trucker’s age of 69 years. The difference: the side of the face with the most damage has been exposed to the sun for 28 years.
UVA protection doesn’t just apply to your skin. Your car windows should be tinted with UVA protection, too, to prevent radiation from getting through.
- Sitting at a desk near a window
Sitting by a window at work may give your eyes someplace to wander about when they’re tired, but you’re also giving your skin damaging UVA rays for up to 8 hours a day without the protective benefit of vitamin D. Like your car window, it would help to apply a UV film to your work window while also slathering broad spectrum sunscreen with titanium dioxide on your skin.
- Running errands
Sometimes, it’s nice to go out for a bit of fresh air, so perhaps you’re thinking you don’t need to use sun protection for a quick walk to a coffee shop or a sprint to the gym or a stroll to the market. In as far as sunburn is concerned, you might not get one with a quick exposure, but these moments, negligible they may be, add up over time.
- Going out on cloudy/snowy days
Cloud cover is not enough to filter UVA rays, 95% of which reach the earth, with only up to 40% of it being blocked by the clouds. So while a cloudy day doesn’t make you feel warm, it is not safe enough to go outdoors unprotected because up to 80% of sun damage arises from indirect sun exposure.
Similarly, even if it’s snowing and below freezing, snow can reflect up to 80% of UV rays, with UV exposure getting bigger the higher your altitude. So if you’re out on wintry conditions and not putting on sunscreen, the world around you becomes a huge tanning bed.
- Swimming in the water
Water, like snow, reflects UV rays, so a one-and-done application of sunscreen leaves you vulnerable in the water as it quickly wears off your initial application. Because you don’t feel the stinging sensation of sunburn, you may forget that you need to reapply sunscreen more frequently than when you are not in the water. Sun Screen Spray SPF 29 by Dr Sylvia Skin Care contains titanium dioxide, a ‘physical’ sun block ideal for convenient use when reapplying outdoors.
The Hidden Dangers of UVA Radiation
Unlike UVB rays that only reach the epidermal layers of the skin, UVA rays are much more invasive, getting into the dermal layers of the skin and causing changes in the DNA of the dermal cells (which can lead to cancer), and even altering proteins that make up collagen and elastin (which leads to wrinkles and skin sagging). UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer of the earth, and pose no harm to the skin.
The sun protection factor or SPF label in most sunscreens is meant to give an indication of how much they protect your skin against UVB (sun burning) rays. SPF has little to do with a sunscreen’s ability to shield your skin from UVA rays.
What to Look for in Sunscreens – and What to Do with Sun Damage
For a sunscreen to truly protect you from most sun damage, it has to pass the ‘broad spectrum’ test conducted by the US FDA. One effective way to block UVB and UVA rays is to wear sunscreen with titanium dioxide, an active ingredient in Sun Protection SPF 30 from Dr Sylvia Skin Care. Titanium dioxide creates a physical rather than a chemical block, which means that it sits on your skin and creates a shield, whereas chemical block sunscreens get absorbed into your skin.
Dr Sylvia Skin Care was developed by Dr Sylvia Ramirez, the medical and scientific director of a highly trusted laser clinic in Scotts Road, Singapore, which offers non-invasive, FDA-approved treatments for sun spot removal.
For those that are already seeing sun damage in the form of brown spots, mottled appearance, redness or other forms of unwanted pigmentation, a laser-like treatment using intense pulsed light (IPL) can help. In fact, IPL facial is a popular treatment for pigmentation in aesthetic clinics in Singapore.
LimeLight Facial by Cutera is a non-invasive, FDA-approved treatment for removing pigmentation by drawing out brown spots from the deep layers of the skin to the surface, where they scab and gradually fall off to give way to brighter skin.