UV Damage and Sunscreen
We all know the dangers of overexposure to ultraviolet light—nearly everyone has come home after a hot summer day, lobster red from spending too much time in the sun. As a preventative measure against sunburn, we often find ourselves slathering sunscreen on every square inch of exposed skin. But why is sunscreen the first line of defense against sunburns? Does it really work? Let’s first answer some questions about ultraviolet light.
What is ultraviolet light?
Ultraviolet (UV) light refers to energy waves found in sunlight with a wavelength between 10 and 400 nanometers long. (Remember, light is a wave, and wavelength is the distance between peaks of the wave.) There are two types of UV light we typically encounter on Earth: UVA and UVB. UVA is called “soft UV” because it has the longer wavelength and lower energy of the two. The ozone layer allows UVA light to easily slip through, but protects Earth’s surface from most UVB light, which is called “intermediate UV.” UVB has a shorter wavelength and more energy than UVA.
Is all UV light bad?
Even though there are dangers of overexposure to UV light, we need at least some UVB for optimum health. You’ve probably heard that spending time out in the sun is essential for your body to produce vitamin D, which helps keep bones healthy. This is true; in fact, vitamin D deficiency can have significant effects and can lead to a broad range of health challenges1. Vitamin D is made from a type of cholesterol that requires stimulation by UVB photons in order to be broken down. While this may seem like a good excuse to go sunbathing for hours without sunscreen, the World Health Organization states that we only need about 5–15 minutes of daily UV exposure to produce enough vitamin D2. When sunlight is scarce in winter months, be sure to take doTERRA Microplex VMz® supplements, which contain vitamin D. Check out our article on doTERRA Science to learn more about the benefits of vitamin D.
How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreen, whether lotion, gel, foam, or spray, works by absorbing or reflecting UV light before it can cause damage to skin cells. Sunscreen contains “UV filters” that manage the UV light depending on the filter’s chemical makeup. If the filters are organic (carbon based), they absorb UV light; if they are inorganic, they reflect or scatter UV light. Sunscreens are effective at protecting skin against sunburn, a painful consequence of excessive UV exposure. More sunburn is linked to a greater risk of skin cancer, so it’s best to be cautious in the sun. Use sunscreen and reapply it every 90 minutes, stay hydrated, keep your skin covered, and avoid direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day3.
You may be tempted to get a tan this summer, but think twice before going sunbathing without adequate protection against UV light. Although sun exposure is unavoidable, you can take steps to minimize its impact on your skin health. Follow the tips above and use products from doTERRA’s skin care lines to help keep your skin feeling young, moisturized, and nourished.