What You Need to Know About UV Damage
We all have something in common, no matter where we live. We all have eyes, skin, and the amazing gift of sunlight around us. Without it, our bodies couldn’t product Vitamin D or serotonin. The latter is an important neurotransmitter (aka. 5-HTP) and it carries signals between nerve cells, and impacts mood. Super important! Of course…the shining sun also comes with a challenge: UV damage.
Overall, the sun is a symbol of joy, creativity, and life itself. It’s a necessity. It’s quite literally the source of our existence–as it allows plants to photosynthesize. In many ways, we do this too, by using the sunlight to create important elements and vitamins.
The sun also regulates our bodies, like the rhythms of day and night. It wakes us up in the morning and lets us sleep at night. Just like the moon, it’s important for all sorts of cycles.
Well…what about that summertime burst of excitement? We can definitely blame the sun for that too! The joy of life comes out, where we jump on a bike or take a lovely hike.
Now, Let’s Talk About UV Radiation
In this midst of all these wonderful summertime activities, we sometimes forget the small details. Hydration, UV ray protection…that stuff.
So first, what is UV radiation and why should we be concerned about UV damage?
According to the American Cancer Society, “Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds and welding torches. Radiation is the emission (sending out) of energy from any source. There are many types of radiation, ranging from very high-energy (high-frequency) radiation – like x-rays and gamma rays – to very low-energy (low-frequency) radiation – like radio waves. UV rays are in the middle of this spectrum. They have more energy than visible light, but not as much as x-rays.”
So, if they’re just rays…are they all that bad? They’re less than an x-ray, after all–and we get those to help us diagnose injuries and heal!
How UV Damage Happens
The sun produces two types of “light.” One is a visible light–the thing that brings us that summer spark and balances our bodies. The other is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is outside the spectrum of visible light.
UV damage happens when we are exposed to UV radiation directly, for too long, when it’s intense.
If you’ve ever looked at greenhouse lights, you’ve seen warnings about this. They talk about UV rays, red/blue/white lightning, and a warning not to look directly at the lights. Exactly like how we’re not supposed to look directly at the sun.
This is because the emissions are that invisible “light”--UV radiation. It’s great for plants…but not so much for human skin!
The Types of Ultraviolet Radiation
Although there are 3 main types of radiation, we’re talking about two: UVA and UVB (or “broad-spectrum”). These are the two types of radiation commercial sunblocks protect us from–and this is important, because both can cause harm.
Both types cause UV damage in slightly different ways. UVA radiation is responsible for skin aging, wrinkling, and skin cancer. UVB, on the other hand, is what actually causes sunburns. Though, it can also cause skin cancers, mole development, and suppress our immune systems.
Protecting Your from UV Damage
The best protection is reducing your exposure to sunlight. We can do this both in the amount of time spent in the sun, and the amount of skin exposed.
Of course, don’t be afraid of the sun! Just respect its power. Too much of a good thing doesn’t always end well. Just remember that last sunburn you had…
Here are some other tips to protect yourself from UV damage:
- The sun is highest from 10am-4pm
- The sun is strongest in spring and summer, especially in places far from the equator
- The sun is stronger year-round in places close to the equator, and at higher elevations
- Water, snow, and pavement can all reflect UV light (which increases exposure)
- Some clouds block UV rays, while some reflect them. If you’re not certain, cover up when it’s cloudy too!
(These are from the American Cancer Society)
Herbal Care for Sunburned Skin
I have quite a few favorites for herbal skincare! A great starter is using tea externally (similar to my Herbal Eye Wash). Some herbs can be used to both cool the skin and heal sunburns…plus repair UV damage. The trick is to follow up the tea with an herbal lotion. Alcohol will dry the skin, but a lotion will keep it hydrated.
Calendula is at the top of the list for this…and it’s such a beautiful flower!
I’ve always found calendula oil is perfect for that finishing lotion, but it also works for a strong tea infusion. Let it steep until the water gets cold and it’ll have the greatest potency. Then, apply it directly to your skin…or if you’re a completely burned crisp, make the infusion in a room-temperature bath.
As for aloe, I’m not a huge fan. It works on mild burns…but then gets all stiff and dry. Raw local honey I do still love, though–despite how messy it can get! It has many healing properties, especially for more severe burns and injuries.
(A tip for my fellow Arizonians: keep a small bottle of raw honey on hand, to pull out the sting of doorknob, seatbelt, and steering wheel burns!)
Of course, with sunburns, treat them with care just like you would a wound. Drink adequate amounts of water and get plenty of sleep, since this allows your body to heal faster. And, don’t forget about a healthy diet! Antioxidant rich foods do wonders for the skin and body.
Disclaimer: For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. (Because why would we want to do that?)