Learning the ABC’s of Ultraviolet Radiation

All Posts October 14, 2015
UVA UVB rays

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Ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation. What’s the big deal? Ok, so you’ve probably been told since you were a little kid that you need to wear sunscreen, right? Perhaps you even remember childhood summer beach days like I do: a never-ending cycle of mom rubbing sunscreen into your skin every time you came out of the ocean, dutifully checking her watch under a big umbrella. Protecting your skin in the sun may be just as annoying now as it was when you were a kid. The reason we’ve been taught to and continue carefully guarding our bodies’ largest organ?

Ultraviolet Radiation.

Yeah, sure, you’ve probably heard loads about this already. You’ve likely had at least one or two gnarly sunburns before that left you feeling like Stewie from that one Family Guy episode.

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You may be well versed in the dangers of UV overexposure, with intimate knowledge of side effects like premature aging and skin cancer. You could even be an expert in understanding how skin can react to UV in crazy-bad ways, especially when you have a disease like Lupus Erythemadodes or are on certain kinds of prescription medications.

3 Types of Ultraviolet Radiation

But what you may not know is that there are 3 different kinds of UV radiation: the ABC’s. Let’s shine some light on them, shall we?

  1. UVA

This is your tanning bed UV and it makes up 95% of the UV radiation that actually ends up on earth. It gets under your skin (literally), penetrating down to the second layer, so it can burn and cause wrinkles, premature aging, and other types of skin damage.

  1. UVB

Ah, UVB. This is skin’s arch-nemesis. It causes the most sunburns because it affects the top level of your epidermis. It actually damages your skin’s DNA and can cause skin cancer. Protect yourself from UVB with sunscreen.

  1. UVC

UVC is relatively harmless. It doesn’t hit the earth’s surface, so researchers are pretty confident that it’s not linked to skin cancer. Interestingly, it is found in some human-made products, like welding torches.

So if you didn’t know before exactly what your sunscreen was protecting you from, now you do (yay knowledge!). Let’s all go thank our moms.

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To get into the nitty gritty of ultraviolet or UV radiation and learn more about protecting yourself, explore the Environmental Protection Agency’s website here.

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