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Understanding the Different Types of UV Rays and Natural Ways to Boost Your Skin’s UV Resistance

The risks of UV rays really come to light in the summer months when we start spending more time outside in the sunshine. Sunlight has definite health benefits with regard to vitamin D, but too much time in the sun can lead to serious consequences if your skin isn’t protected.

The sun emits UV rays as a type of electromagnetic radiation, and these wavelengths are not visible to the human eye. However, they create a significant risk of skin cancer, and there are a couple types of UV rays that you need to protect yourself from.

Photo credit: aneye4wonder via Flickr

Differences Between the Types of UV Rays

There are three types of UV rays, but UVC rays aren’t found in sunlight, so we’ll focus on the other two types for this article. UVA rays are also known as long wave rays and make up a vast majority of the UV rays that we experience from sunlight. They are very common, but less intense than the radiation emitted from UVB rays. You are exposed to UVA rays by simply being outside, even when it’s cloudy. Meanwhile, UVB rays are also known as short wave rays and these less common, more intense rays are what really put us at risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

How to Boost Your UV Resistance

Some people’s skin tends to burn after just a few minutes in the sun, while others can be outside for hours and barely get a tan. Your sensitivity to UV rays is largely determined by genetics, skin color, and your lifestyle habits, but there are some ways that you can help your skin be more resilient in the sunshine. Not surprisingly, this largely has to do with your diet.

For example, tomatoes are known to naturally boost the skin’s UV resistance because they’re rich in an antioxidant called lycopene. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli sprouts and Brussels sprouts also have UV-resisting properties that can counter the effects of sun exposure. Other good foods to eat if you’re planning to spend more time out in the sun include almonds, watermelons, red peppers, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, coconut oil, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil and olive oil. All of these healthy foods have healthy skin-boosting benefits and make you more resilient to environmental damage.

Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich via Flickr

Preventing UV Skin Damage

The most obvious way to protect yourself from UV rays is to slather on some sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection. The SPF number on your bottle of sunscreen indicates the percentage of UV rays that it blocks out. For example, SPF 50 sunscreen blocks out approximately 98 percent of UV rays, and SPF 30 sunscreen blocks out about 97 percent of these rays. Both of these SPF options are good choices for spending time outdoors in the summer. Just make sure that the sunscreen you’re using provides protection against both types of UV rays that come from the sun.

If you’re understandably hesitant about applying questionable sunscreen ingredients to your skin, check out our article with Chemical-Free Sunscreen Recipes for Summer.

Additionally, it’s a smart idea to avoid spending prolonged periods of time outdoors between 10am and 4pm when it’s bright and sunny. Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and loose-fitting pants and long-sleeved shirts aren’t just stylish summer attire; they also provide excellent protection against UV rays.

Stay sun-smart this summer and enjoy the season!

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