UV radiation from the sun has an important role to play in our lives and the environment around. It affects nearly all living organisms and is responsible for many biological processes. Even some animals depend on seeing into UV light to find ripe fruits, seeds and flowers. But accepting the benefits means also living with UV rays’ potentially harmful effects. While the earth’s atmosphere blocks most of the UV radiation from the sun, the small amount that gets through has the power to do both harm and good. Living things on dry land would be severely harmed by UV radiation from the sun if most of it were not filtered out by the earth’s atmosphere.
So what do we mean by ultraviolet – or UV – radiation? It is a type of electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun and some artificial sources, including solariums or sun beds and black lights. And here’s a fun fact: ultraviolet means ‘beyond violet’ – violet being the colour of the highest frequencies of visible light – meaning that UV has a higher frequency than visible light and is largely invisible to the naked eye.
We use UV as a general term but in fact there are three main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC, and UVA and UVB in particular are the ones we need to watch out for when it comes to harmful effects.
Simply put, UVA rays age the skin and can damage DNA.
These rays are linked to wrinkles and signs of ageing in the skin, and are thought to play a role in long-term skin damage such as cancer. UVB rays have more energy than UVA rays and can damage skin cells’ DNA directly – these are the rays that cause sunburn and are believed to cause most skin cancers. UVC rays have more energy than UVA and UVB rays but are not in sunlight and do not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere.
There are some benefits to UV radiation
It is responsible for the formation of vitamin D in most land animals, including humans, which helps to regulate calcium metabolism, immunity, cell proliferation, the secretion of insulin, and even blood pressure. And UV radiation is responsible for increasing the amount of melanin in our skin – the brown pigment that results in a sun tan. Melanin absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation and transforms the energy into harmless heat – which protects the skin against DNA damage.
But here’s another thing you might not have known about the sun and UV rays – UV rays make up only 7 percent of sunlight. The rest is 38 percent visible light and 54 percent something called infrared light.
IRA rays are known to stimulate the production of collagen
Infrared (IR) light is also a type of radiation and again can be categorized into IRA, IRB, and IRC rays. Research has typically focused on the effects of UV as opposed to IRA radiation on health, but it is known that IRA rays can induce heat in the skin, sometimes to as much as 40 degrees. Again, there are benefits to these rays – IRA rays are known to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin which keep our skin firm and flexible but, as with UV rays, over-exposure can cause of a number of negative effects including premature photo-ageing and skin cancer.
While exposure in measured doses can be beneficial, rays from the sun are the major cause of sunburn, premature ageing, eye damage, and skin damage – leading to skin cancer.
The immediate effect of over exposure
The immediate effect of over exposure to the sun is sunburn – dry, red, stinging and sometimes inflamed skin that eventually peels off. But in addition, all types of UV rays damage the collagen fibres in your skin and therefore accelerate ageing – collagen fibres are found all over the body and provide the strength to our connective tissues. Once this starts to disintegrate, our skin sags.
The rays also destroy vitamin A, which works by normalising skin functions and correcting skin conditions. Vitamin A helps the skin repel bacteria and viruses and is a powerful skin enhancer than can reduce wrinkles, fade brown spots, and smooth roughness. Essentially, destroying vitamin A means destroying your skin’s ability to heal itself.
The anti-ageing revolution
The anti-ageing revolution that has swept the aesthetic market in recent years has focused much attention on protecting and treating the skin from UV damage. For people living in sunny, warm countries it isn’t easy to hide yourself from the skin 24/7, and nor should you need to. There are an abundance of products on the market that protect, repair and replenish skin that has suffered from UV damage.
The benefits of pHformula’s specifically formulated product range
pHformula prides itself on the design of products that are easy to use, contain multifunctional properties, and are innovative, safe and developed based on sound scientific methods and understanding. The UV protect SPF30+ cream, for example, is a high broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection formula that prevents DNA damage through the provision of superior antioxidant protection, thereby warding off further damage. The inclusion of rosehip oil combats the free radicals prompted by sun exposure, while improving skin tone, moisturizing and removing redness and irritation.
The multifunctional complexion correcting C.C. cream, instantly minimizes the look of imperfections while the sun filters block ageing-accelerating UVA-UVB rays. This cream is ideal for use after dermatological procedures including light to medium chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and IPL.
The U.V. protect SPF 50 + provides superior protection against harmful UVA/UVB rays whilst reducing inflammation produced by infrared radiation. The U.V. protect SPF 50+ provides high sun protection, yet is comfortable and gentle on the skin. This unique formula especially for the face includes beneficial ingredients to help prevent skin dryness and is ideal for application during skin resurfacing procedures or outdoor activities and sports.
Vitamin C is essential to prevent and reverse visible signs of skin ageing and pigment changes. pHformula has developed a highly concentrated vitamin C cream with 24 hour moisturizing properties to offer immediate and intense hydration.
It is not just your face that is subject to sun damage. In fact, your hands probably receive the most sun, suffer from continuous environmental exposure, and are therefore one of the first places we see the signs of ageing. pHformula’s Hand Perfection Cream is a multifunctional treatment and protection formula that reverses the signs of ageing and helps your hands remain healthy, soft and smooth. The inclusion of niacinamide evens out skin tone and improves texture, and liquorice extract provides powerful antioxidant activity, while olive oil, St Johns’ Word Oil, and sunflower oil work together to bring balance and comfort to circulation, hydrate, soothe, and regenerate the skin.
Knowledge is power
As with our understanding of the sun, knowledge is power. Be aware of what UV rays are and what they can do, respect their strength and protect yourself accordingly. We can’t see or feel UV rays, so we often don’t understand the damage they have done until the signs start to appear. Contact your pHformula skin specialist to discuss the best treatment to keep your skin healthy.