We all know that the sun is a constant source of ultraviolet light that bombards your skin, which your skin either reflects or absorbs. But while some non-harmful parts of ultraviolet light, or UV rays, is reflected by your skin, any rays that are absorbed can cause a reaction in your body that leads to semi-permanent or even permanent damage.
So let’s dig a little deeper into how sunlight, shade, and skin care all tie together, starting with the very basics.
What is ultraviolet light?
UV light is light of a different spectrum than that of the visible spectrum we see every day. These are the kind of rays that penetrate overcast clouds that cause sunburns. Most importantly, they work the same as any other type of light – by being either absorbed or reflected. As with other surfaces, darker colors absorb more light than lighter colors.
When ultraviolet light hits our skin, it has a chance to be reflected immediately by the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum. If the UV rays are not reflected, they move into the epidermis, or the second layer of skin. Here, your body houses a special protective pigment called melanin that is activated when it makes contact with UV rays. The melanin reacts by darkening skin, which is how sunbathers get their tans.
How does melanin protect you?
In addition to helping beachgoers get their tans, melanin also plays a critical role in diffusing UV rays that have been absorbed by our bodies.
Once the ultraviolet rays reach the melanin, they are spread out across the skin by melanin. This dispersal prevents the light from reaching our DNA. If ultraviolet light was able to reach our DNA without the protection of melanin, it would be corrupted and significantly reduce our life spans.
People with darker skin who produce melanin more often are able to scatter UV rays more efficiently when exposed to sun. Those with lighter skin are less adept and scattering rays, which raises the risk of skin cancer.
Tans disappear when melanin reaches the outermost layer of skin and is sloughed off in the natural skin shedding process. Since melanin is so close to the surface, it doesn’t take long for a tan to return to your natural skin color.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Aside from tanning oil and sunscreen, a few simple measures to help protect yourself and your family from harmful UV rays is to expand outdoor living areas with the simple addition of a retractable awning. Unlike sunscreen, retractable awnings provide the ultimate UV protection by eliminating nearly all UV rays from the enclosed area. More importantly, awnings add style and flare to any home, deck or patio and are available in a number of sizes, colors, and styles to match any home or business in need of shaded space.
Contact Eclipse Shading Systems at (800) 501-3850 and check out our complete line of shading products!