Does This Kind Of Sun Exposure Harm Your Skin The Most?

Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

We're coming to the end of summer, and for the last few months, sun exposure has been on the brain. But is all sun the same? A new study, published in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, tried to answer just this question.

To do this, a group of researchers from Binghamton University in New York investigated the effects of different types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on skin health. There are four categories of UV radiation (UVA and UVB being the most well known), and each penetrates the skin in a different way, often causing photodamage that leads to premature aging. For years, there's been a debate among scientists and cosmetic industry experts over whether UVA radiation is worse than UVB radiation or vice versa.

The researchers wanted to settle this debate by answering two questions: First, what kind of ultraviolet radiation is the worst for our skin? And second, how exactly does the sun damage our skin in the first place?

By exposing human breast skin to the different types of UV light, they were able to answer both. The results showed that UVA and UVB radiation are equally harmful—and instead what really matters is the amount of UV energy the skin absorbs in general.

They were also able to uncover exactly how UV damages the skin in the first place, which until now has been somewhat of a mystery. Apparently, UV exposure weakens the bonds between cells in the top layer of the skin, which damages the skin's structural integrity and leaves it vulnerable to damage or even infection. It also explains why your skin peels when you have a sunburn. As Guy German, the assistant professor who oversaw the study, explained, "Up until this point...there have been a lot of studies about skin damage, but none that properly look at how UV affects the mechanical integrity of skin."

This newfound knowledge could potentially be used to help the cosmetics industry develop sunscreens that are better at protecting skin from all four types of damaging UV radiation. Until then, stick to the shade, and try one of these natural mineral sunscreens.

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