What you need to know about ultraviolet(UV) protection

Nov 30, 12 What you need to know about ultraviolet(UV) protection

Images of pretty girls sunning on the beach are often accompanied by images of them applying sunblocks or wearing broad-brimmed hats. While sunning can be enjoyable, the ultraviolet exposure is not to be neglected. Most know that ultraviolet is one major cause of skin cancers worldwide and its incidence can certainly be reduced with adequate UV protection.

What is ultraviolet rays?

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are nonvisible light that is found in sunlight. There are 3 major types of UV, namely UVA, UVB and UVC. All 3 have different wavelengths and differ in terms of penetration and effects to the skin. Ozone blocks most of the UVB and part of UVC while normal air blocks most of the UVC. UV radiation that reach the earth surface is mainly UVA. Artificial UV lights can be found on most light sources, including the commonly used fluorescent light.

How does UV light harms us?

It had been proven that UV radiation can induce skin cancers by causing DNA damages and mutations. Besides damaging the DNA, it may also damage skin collagen and increases the rate of skin aging. Prolonged and intensed exposure to UV light can also cause reddening and inflammation to the skin, commonly known as sunburn. Apart from this, there is a long list of skin diseases that may be caused by sun exposure as well as skin diseases that may be aggravated by sun exposure.

Besides damaging the skin, UVB can be dangerous to our eyes. Among the eye conditions that are associated with UV radiation include cataracts, pterygium and pinguecula formations.

How do we protect ourselves from UV radiation?

Besides avoiding direct intensed sun exposure, there are other ways that can reduce our exposure to UV radiation. Simple protective devices such as umbrella, broad-brimmed hats, scarfs, broad sunglasses, UV hats/caps and shades can do big differences. Clothing that covers more i.e. long sleeves, long pants or dress can also protect our limbs from the radiation. Nowadays, there are clothing or swimwear that offers UV protection and had been tested to be effective. Sunblocks is also effective and are encouraged from young.

What is sunblock? What are the types of sunblocks?

Sunblocks are formulations that protect our skin from UV radiation. It can be in the form of creams/lotions/ointment or tablets. Topical preparations (creams/lotions/ointment) can be further divided into physical sunblock and chemical sunblock. Physical sunblock physically form a barrier and reflect both UVA and UVB radiation. The commonly used physical sunblocks are titanium oxide and zinc oxide. These are very effective and suitable for sensitive skin as it is less irritating to the skin as compared to chemical sunblock. Chemical sunblock absorbs the UV radiation before it reaches the skin. Normally, chemical sunblocks contain a mixture of few chemicals as most chemicals can only absorbed certain spectrum of the radiation. Very few chemical sunblocks can effectively block UVA and hence most sunblocks in the market contains both physical and chemical sunblocks.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor and is a measurement of how long a sunscreen remain effective on the skin. For example, if you develop sunburn after 3 minutes of sun exposure, a sunblock with SPF 10 will prolong the time to sunburn to 10 times the original 3 minutes, making it 30 minutes. Anything beyond SPF 30 offers little additional protection as these formulations often does not stay on the skin longer than their effective period.

What is the correct way to apply sunblock?

Sunblock can only be effective if enough volume is used and reapplied. The current recommendation is to apply 2 strips of sunblock from the fingertip till the first finger crease to cover the face and neck. The same amount of sunblock is also needed for each arm, lower part of leg, upper part of leg, upper front body, lower front body, upper back body and lower back body. Sunblocks should be reapplied every 4 hourly or even 2 hourly under direct sun exposure and after swimming and sweating. The optimum time to apply sunblock is about half an hour before going out to allow sunblock to sink in and take effect.


Start protecting yourselves from UV radiation using the correct way!



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