Sunscreen isn't just for summer. Harmful ultraviolet radiation can damage the skin of children and older adults alike, even in the dead of winter. Gray, cloudy days block out some, but not all of the sun's harmful UV rays. And now, according to a recent study by Harvard University scientists, this year's violent storms appear to be depleting the protective U.S. ozone layer, increasing our exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
The sun emits two types of ultraviolet radiation:
- UVB rays that damage the surface of the skin, causing sunburn and exacerbating skin cancer. The pain and redness associated with sunburn usually warn us of overexposure to UVB rays.
- UVA rays penetrate deep into skin layers where they can permanently damage skin tissues. Repeated exposure to UVA rays can cause premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, and skin cancer. UVA rays do their damage silently, providing no immediate symptoms to warn us of the problems they are causing.
What to Look for on the Label
New regulations for sunscreen testing and labeling implemented this summer by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now require that sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection against both UVB and UVA rays. Previously, most sunscreens protected only against the UVB rays that cause sunburn. New sunscreen labels must also list all product ingredients, and, if labeled water-resistant, must indicate the number of minutes of protection they provide when exposed to water.
As manufacturers are being allowed to sell on-hand stock while they transition to new labeling requirements, make sure any sunscreen you purchase is labeled broad spectrum. For more tips on healthy living, download our free guide, 11 Ways to Age Successfully at Home.