The Virginia Institute for Surgical Arts Blog

Soaking up the sun on a beautiful summer day is very tempting; however, the importance of protecting your skin with a proper sunscreen cannot be overstated—not only for health reasons, but also for cosmetic reasons.  According to, “More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun.” This incredibly powerful statistic illustrates the fact that although some of the negative aesthetic effects of aging are natural and inevitable, a much larger percentage are absolutely avoidable and can be prevented with some very simple and practical steps!

There are two different forms of the sun’s ultra violet (UV) rays, and they each impact your skin in a different way.  UVB rays are known as the “burning rays,” because they burn the outermost layers of the skin, causing redness and sunburns. Exposure to UVB rays puts you at risk for both basal and squamous cell carcinomas—two very serious, and potentially dangerous types of skin cancer. UVA rays are often referred to as the “aging rays,” and make up 95% of the ultraviolet rays that reach the earth’s surface.  UVA light is the light primarily used in tanning beds, and while a tan might give you the outward appearance of a healthy glow, the darkened color of the tanned skin is actually the result of injury to your skin’s DNA caused by UVA rays.  Studies over the past two decades have shown that UVA rays damage skin cells in both the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) and the dermis (innermost layers of the skin), and damage to each of these layers has distinct negative ramifications for your health and appearance.

UVA damage to the epidermis can contribute to, and potentially initiate, the development of various types of skin cancers. UVA damage to the dermis weakens the skin’s collagen and elastin fibers, causing a phenomenon known as “photoaging,” which is the term dermatologists use to describe the type of premature aging caused specifically by sun exposure. Symptoms of photoaging include:  wrinkling and sagging of the skin tissue, dilation of the facial blood vessels, freckles, spider veins on the face, rough leathery skin, a blotchy complexion, rough-reddish patches of skin (actinic keratoses), age spots, and hyper-pigmentation. With repeated exposure to the sun, the skin loses the ability to repair itself, and the damage accumulates.

Sun protection is necessary throughout the entire year, because UVA rays are equally intense year-round, and are powerful enough to penetrate clouds and glass. Therefore, even if the majority of your time is spent indoors or driving in your car, it is still imperative that you wear a proper sunscreen, to guard against UVA rays passing through the windows of your home and vehicle.  Similarly, although UVB rays are at their strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM from April to October, at high altitudes or on reflective surfaces (snow, sand, ice), UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round.  Another factor to keep in mind is that many medications and topical products can increase your sensitivity to sun exposure, and can potentially lead to burning, hyperpigmentation and allergic reactions even after minimal sun exposure.

Fortunately, protecting yourself from the harmful effects of sun exposure is very simple. Wearing a hat, UV-absorbent sun-glasses, clothing made of dark, tightly woven materials, and a quality sunscreen can all help to shield you the negative effects of the sun. Because UVA and UVB rays are both detrimental to your skin, look for a sunscreen that offers “broad” or “full spectrum” protection.  The FDA recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, plus some combination of the following UVA and UVB absorbers/blockers:  Octocrylene, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide. The MyBody brand “Protect & Serve Sun Shield” is an example of an ideal sunscreen, because it provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection with SPF 40. This oil free sunscreen contains three of the FDA-approved UVA/UVB-blocking ingredients, and infuses skin with antioxidants while hydrating the skin. For women seeking a product that offers sun protection as well as makeup coverage, MyBody also offers the “Protect & Serve Tinted Sun Shield” with SPF 30. As with most sunscreens, MyBody products should be applied liberally 15 minutes prior to sun exposure, and reapplied at least every 2 hours as needed after swimming or perspiring. For more information, or to purchase the MyBody products, please click the link below:


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