Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation: Don’t Feel the Burn, Avoid It!


If you want to spend the day at the beach, there are plenty of ways to protect your skin from the UV radiation.

After so many months cooped up inside trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve, many of us are ready for the great outdoors. Patio furniture is flying off store shelves, gardens are springing to life, and outdoor BBQs are becoming the socially distant events of the season. But as we look to the outdoors in our quest for a bit of normalcy, it is important to remember that basking in the sunshine comes with its own health risks from the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Oh great, something else to worry about. But before you decide it’s safer to permanently relocate under your bed, avoiding the harmful UV effects is relatively easy. All we need is a little understanding of UV radiation, a forecast of UV intensity and some basic guidelines.

The sun produces a lot of energy in many different forms. Some energy we can see (visible light), and some, like UV radiation, we can’t see but our skin absorbs it, especially on sunny summer days. The sun’s UV radiation is divided into three components based on how energetic it is. UV-C is the most energetic, and therefore the most harmful. Fortunately, the ozone layer—Earth’s giant sun umbrella—completely…absorbs it (phew!). The ozone layer also absorbs most UV-B radiation, but some still reaches us, causing those sunburns that have fair-skinned people slathering on aloe and wishing they’d lathered on more sunscreen. The final type of ultraviolet light is UV-A, the least energetic and least harmful of the three, most of which makes it through the ozone layer.

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