UV Rays Beyond Violet

A while back I went to a local discussion about sun safety awareness and skin health. Belinda Ryan, organizer, and Dr. Amy Adams, dermatologist, are quite knowledgeable about the topic and very passionate about educating the public. It was the first presentation I've attended geared towards awareness for children, and I learned a lot including that babies aged six months and younger should be shielded from the sun's rays rather than have sunscreen applied to their skin.  

What was discussed is good advice for adults, too, including the need to increase awareness and change our daily habits to include wearing sunscreen and sun protection clothing and accessories.

  • Sun screen should be reapplied every two hours

  • It's ideal to WEAR our sun protection in the form of UPF or dark, tightly woven clothing

  • Here in the United States we develop more sun damage on the left side of our faces (that's because driver side windows do not typically filter out UV rays. So yes, in the U.K. they have more damage on the right sides of their faces).

Dr. Adams spent a bit of time explaining the science behind ultraviolet rays which I found fascinating! As I understood it, "Ultraviolet" means "beyond violet" (the term stems from the Latin meaning of ultra which means"beyond"). What I didn't realize is Ultraviolet is literally beyond the color Violet which is the color with the highest frequencies of visible light. On the wavelength 'continuum', the three different types of ultraviolet rays, UVA, UVB and UVC, are between violet light and x-rays.  

I found this image in this cool article which, if you want to totally geek out, will explain UV further.

 

 

As I understand it, here's what we need to know:

  • Ultraviolet light is useful to help break down, process, and make it possible for us to absorb Vitamin D through the sun's rays.

  • However, very, very little sun exposure is needed for this conversion AND we can only absorb a small amount of Vitamin D via the sun.

  • Per the American Academy of Dermatology, the risks outweigh the benefits and the safer, healthier recommendation is to obtain your Vitamin D with foods and a daily supplement. 

Additionally, depending on where you live, the time of year, and the time of day, UV levels will vary. The strength of UV rays are going to vary based on -

  • Height of the sun in the sky - highest during summer months

  • Altitude - distance from the sun

  • Latitude - proximity to the equator

  • Clouds and Haze - both can enhance, not diminish, UV rays

Furthermore, many surfaces reflect UV rays - for example, in ascending order:

  • Grass, soil, water

  • Sand

  • Sea foam

  • Snow

And it's good to note that any wet surface is going to enhance UV reflection thus intensifying UV exposure.  Even as spectators, be mindful of your daily exposure through every season!

One last comment about Dr. Adams' presentation with Belinda Ryan's input is the importance to begin educating children about sun safety best practices when they're young, so these healthy habits become ingrained. There are many resources out there including SunSmart, a skin cancer prevention website based in Australia, which includes fun educational songs geared towards kids.

 

Sources:

Ultraviolet Radiation: How It Affects Life On Earth

SunSmart Songs And Singalongs

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published