The Crucial Role of UV Rays and Free Radicals in Skin Damage
You’ve probably heard it time and time again: wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects. But what exactly is happening when your skin is exposed to the sun? In this updated blog post, we’ll delve into the science behind sun exposure and skin damage.
The Process of Skin Damage from Sun Exposure Breaking it down in 3 simple steps:
- You venture outside with inadequate or no sunscreen protection.
- UVA and UVB rays infiltrate your skin at various depths, initiating the production of free radicals.
- Free radicals attack your skin, leading to dryness, sagging, wrinkles, and more.
Demystifying Free Radicals Free radicals might sound like a foreign concept, but they play a significant role in skin damage. These unstable molecules constantly search for an electron to bond with. When they “steal” electrons from other molecules, they set off chain reactions that damage healthy cells and tissue, resulting in compromised skin.
3 Visible Signs of Skin Damage
- Wrinkles and Sagging Cause: Free radicals target collagen and elastin
Collagen and elastin are protein fibers that act as a supportive framework for your skin, maintaining the structure of your epidermis (outermost skin layer). When free radicals attack collagen and elastin, your skin loses strength and elasticity, resulting in sagging and wrinkles.
- Dry, Leathery Skin Cause: Free radicals target lipids
Lipids contribute to a protective barrier for your skin, helping retain moisture and shielding it from external elements, like sun and wind. However, when lipids encounter free radicals, your lipid barrier becomes compromised, leading to dry, leathery, and irritated skin.
- Sun Spots, Uneven Skin Tone, and Skin Cancer Cause: Free radicals target DNA
Prolonged exposure to UVA rays can elevate melanin production, causing hyperpigmentation (uneven darkening of the skin) and age spots. Worse still, when free radicals damage cell DNA, they can trigger cell mutations that may lead to skin cancer, including melanoma.
Solutions: Sunscreens and Antioxidants
To prevent free radicals from harming your skin, make sure to wear sunscreen consistently and increase your antioxidant levels topically.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Sun exposure is something you can control, making it a sensible starting point for addressing skin damage. Sunscreen with zinc oxide blocks most UVB and UVA rays before they can penetrate the skin and initiate a free radical chain reaction. Wear it daily, regardless of the time or weather conditions.
Antioxidants Antioxidants, found in a wide range of foods and drinks, are molecules that counteract the damage caused by free radicals. As you age, your body’s antioxidant levels decline, giving free radicals the advantage. While consuming antioxidant-rich foods is beneficial, it’s often not enough to protect your skin. Applying topical antioxidants can help fortify your skin against free radical damage.