FAQ: Sun's UV Rays

All summer-long you've probably heard about the dangers of "UV rays" and were told to wear sunscreen. But what exactly are UV rays and what does it actually do to your skin? Here are some answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the sun's skin-damaging rays:

Q: What exactly are UV rays?

Exposure to UV radiation is a major factor in most skin cancers, and most UV radiation comes from the sun! You are also exposed to UV rays in tanning beds. 

There are 2 types of UV rays that you may be exposed to:

  • UVA rays age skin cells. They're linked to skin damage like wrinkles, but can also cause skin cancers (especially from tanning beds, which produce a lot of UVA rays and have been linked to skin cancer).
  • UVB rays are the main rays that cause sunburns and are believed to cause most skin cancers.

Q: What is the easiest thing to do to protect my skin?

Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. UV rays are strongest between these times. Wear sunblock and cover your skin even if you're skitting in the shade or it's cloudy -- UV rays can reflect off of many surfaces and can sometimes be amplified by cloud cover. Staying in the shade and cloudy days mean you'll be less exposed to UV rays, but using sunblock is your best bet when it comes to protecting your skin. 

Q: What kind of sunscreen should I buy?

The American Cancer Society suggests broad spectrum (this means it protects against UVA AND UVB rays), water-resistant sunblock that has not expired. 

Sunscreen labeled with SPFs as high as 100+ are available. Higher numbers do mean more protection, but many people don’t understand the SPF scale. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, which SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97% , SPF 50 sunscreen about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. No sunscreen protects you completely. Sunscreen with an SPF lower than 15 must now include a warning on the label stating that the product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn ,not skin cancer or early skin aging.
— American Cancer Society

Q: My skin is not pale; do I still need to wear sunscreen? 

Yes! People of color are often diagnosed with skin cancer at much later stages. Learn more about it here.  

Have any more questions about the UV rays? Let us know on the comment box below!