How does sun exposure damage skin?

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Sunlight consists of two main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage skin -- UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. This type of sunlight intensifies during the summer and can do more damage more quickly than UVA rays. The epidermis absorbs most of the intensity of UVB rays. UVB rays cannot pass through glass, although UVA rays can. UVC rays, another spectrum in sunlight, are also potentially harmful, but the ozone layer blocks them from reaching the earth. UVA and UVB rays are present all year and are hazardous whether they are direct or reflected.

When the sun's ultraviolet radiation reaches the surface of the skin, the skin reacts by producing melanin -- otherwise known as a tan -- to protect itself. UVA rays are milder than UVB rays, but because their wavelengths are longer, they penetrate deeper through the skin's layers. UVA rays contribute to wrinkling the skin, as well as to the development of skin cancer.

UVA rays  are used in tanning booths. UVA rays in tanning booths not only inflict damage similar to sunlight, they are also more intense in a tanning booth than the equivalent time spent in natural sunlight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.