UV, UVA, UVB, SPF We see these abbreviations all the time, but what do they actually stand for and how do they affect you? We should start at the beginning. The sun emits sunlight in the form of energy. This energy is the basis of all life on Earth. The energy classification is based on a spectrum and that spectrum is broken down in to several parts. However, today we are only going to focus on the effects of two of the UV sections. UV stands for ultraviolet radiation, which is made up of UVA and UVB rays. We can think of UVA as ultraviolet radiation A, or the rays that cause us to age, and UVB as the ultraviolet radiation B, or the rays that cause our skin to burn. UVA penetrate deeper in to the dermis and cause damage to the collagen and elastin found there, resulting in wrinkling and sagging of the skin. This dermal penetration also allow free radicals to damage the tissue, which can lead to skin cancer. Since most of us aren’t chemists, let’s think of a free radical stopping to damage other healthy molecules on its journey of companionship. To stop free radical’s chaotic behavior, we use antioxidants. Antioxidants are ingredients that deactivate, neutralize, or obstruct free radicals and can be found in many professional skin care lines anti-aging products. Although UVB rays make up less than 1% of the UV rays that actually reach Earth, they wreak havoc on our bodies by penetrating the top layers of the skin. UVB rays damage the skin by activating and altering melanocytes resulting in hyper-pigmentation and uneven skin tone. Melanocytes are specialized cells that are responsible for producing the pigment we see in our skin, this pigment is called melanin. Melanin is a protein that not only determines hair, eye, and skin color, but also acts as a defense mechanism to protect the skin from the sun. To make it simple, UVB rays basically damage the “on/off” switch in the melanocytes which results in an increased production yet uneven distribution of melanin.
- Low ceramide – a waxy, moisture-holding lipid found in the skin
- Low amount of sebum (oil), vital to lubricating skin layers & acts as a protectant
- Cold dry weather
- Harsh ingredients in skin care products
- Avoid long, hot showers that zap moisture from skin
- Use a humidifier, especially in winter months when air is more dry
- Apply a serum or cream that’s right for you, morning & night to strengthen and protect the barrier from harsh weather.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) divides skin care products into two separate categories: Cosmetic & pharmaceutical. Pharmaceutical products undergo rigorous testing that can go on for more than 10 yrs and cost millions of dollars. Pharmaceutical grade products are only available through a licensed professional. These products not only contain a higher percentage of active ingredients, but higher quality of each ingredient. According to the FDA, pharmaceutical grade products are required to be 99% pure, where cosmetic grade products are only required to be 70% pure. Active ingredients are those that can make a change in your skin such as (reducing wrinkles, pigmentation, alleviate acne, etc.).