Prevent sun damage this summer with a dermatologist's explanation of why the summer sun is so dangerous for your skin.
As a dermatologist, I want to explain summer sun damage in order to help you prevent accumulating it this summer. It is important to know that in the summer the sun is very close to you if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. Understand why this matters so that you are ready before you go out into summer's beautiful warmth. Know that the closer the sun is to you, the more sun damage your skin is exposed to because of the UVB ray intensity. I'll explain how and why this is important.
Do you know that the summer solstice marks the date every year when the sun is closest to your skin in the Northern Hemisphere?
The summer solstice is always June 21st and it represents the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours. The days before and after solstice carry the highest risk of UVB skin sun damage. Weather actually warms more after the solstice than before due to a lag in the earth and oceans giving off their warmth. It means that now through August you will be outside playing in the warmth and bathing in intense UVB. You need your sun protection strategy ready right now!
Why is the UVB intensity worse around the summer solstice?
UVB is normally absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer. As a dermatologist I've explained to my patients many times that in the summer there is more sun damage from UVB because of the sun ray's shorter path through the ozone. When the sun is right overhead, the rays penetrate the ozone perpendicularly instead of tangentially. That makes the path through the ozone direct and short. Thus, fewer UVB rays are absorbed by the longer ozone path than they are in winter. That’s why the sun feels stronger and stings more in summer – more UVB hits your skin and less is absorbed in the ozone.
I had this diagram created because, as a dermatologist, I wanted to better explain why summer sun damage is so dangerous so that I could help you prevent it. UVB, the ozone and summer are really important to understand. In the above diagram, you can see conceptually how fewer UVB rays are absorbed with a shorter summer perpendicular transit through our earth's ozone ring compared with winter’s tangential transit. UVA is unaffected by the length of transit through the ozone because it is not absorbed by it. UVC is entirely blocked by the ozone and does not reach your skin when your are standing on earth. (Fun fact: There is UVC (which is really bad for your skin) in the higher stratosphere of the earth, such as when you are flying in an airplane though.)
Why is UVA equally intense in summer and winter?
UVA is not absorbed as it passes through the ozone, which is why UVA is out with almost equal intensity in winter as it is in summer. UVA feels gentler and stings less, making you think it is safer. It’s still not safe though. UVA rays transfer their energy to the deeper layers of your skin to cause wrinkling and skin thinning. You have mole cells (melanocytes) there too and UVA exposure can increase the risk of those cells turning into a melanoma.
Why is UVB bad for your skin?
It’s the sunburn ray. It transfers most of its energy to the surface of your skin (called the epidermis) to cause sun spots, skin cancer, skin thinning, uneven skin pigment, 'leathering and weathering' and overall skin sun damage.
Both UVB and UVA lead to premature skin aging. 90% of skin aging is sun damage, not the passing of years.
Get your sun protection strategy set now, then go outside in the post summer solstice weather and have fun!
Dermatologist’s Sun Protection Advice for Summer Sun
- Wear sun protective clothing. This will reduce the amount of exposed skin needing sunscreen.
- Protect your exposed skin with my A.S.K. steps:
Apply mineral zinc sunscreen, and reapply as recommended during the long hours of sunshine. This has been proven trustworthy by my patients and customers – and me! Add mineral makeup if you wear it for a second shield of protection.
Shade your skin. Create shade with a hat, sunglasses, and a proven sun umbrella. Seek shade too. Bonus – you’ll feel cooler and fresher than if you stayed in the direct sun!
Know your exposure risk. You can use the Detecto Ring to learn just how tricksy the UV rays are at bouncing into your shade. Trust me, this Detecto Ring is fun – kids really love it as they learn about sun exposure and where the sun rays hide.
I put it all together for you with my sun protection kits. Get the sun protection I use for my own fair skin.
Having read my dermatologist's explanation of summer sun damage and how to prevent it, was it helpful? I hope so. I have one more helpful tool to guide you into good summer skin care this year.
It's my Sun Protection Infographic. I made it for you and I invite you to share it with your friends and family on Facebook or Pinterest. Help everyone remember the best way to sun protect their skin while enjoying the warm summer weather.