Science 3 min read

How the Ultraviolet Radiation From the Sun Damages Our Skin

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

You may have heard that the ultraviolet radiation from the sun damages the skin. But, how exactly does this damage occur?

That’s the primary question that a biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate at Binghamton University, Zachary W. Lipsky, sought to answer in his recent study.

There are four categories of ultraviolet radiation, depending on the wavelength and photon energy. While several past studies have documented how prolonged exposure to these UV can cause skin cancer, the other ways this radiation damages the skin has remained mostly unexplored.

Co-author of the study and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Guy K. Germansaid:

“Up until this point, however, there have been a lot of studies about skin damage, but none that properly look at how UV affects the mechanical integrity of the skin.”

Previous studies suggest that prolonged exposure to UV leads to photodamage. This, in turn, causes early onset of wrinkles and increased tissue fragility.

However, researchers in the cosmetic industry have never been able to reach an agreement on which ultraviolet radiation is worse: ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB).

So, the Binghamton team conducted a study to put this debate to rest.

The Effect of the Ultraviolet Radiation on the Skin

For the study, the researchers needed a part of the skin that’s it’s typically exposed to low levels of sunlight. So, they chose the female breast skin and subjected it to various wavelengths of UV radiations.

The researchers discovered that no UV range is more harmful than another. Instead, the damage to the skin depends on the amount of UV energy it absorbs.

So, how does UV energy affect our skin?

According to the findings, ultraviolet radiation weakens the bond between cells in the skin’s top layer, the stratum corneum, by affecting the proteins in corneodesmosomes. These proteins are responsible for helping the cells adhere together.

That’s why sunburn causes the skin to peel.

Lipsky added:

“What we noticed when we applied more and more UV radiation is that the dispersion of these corneodesmosomes was increasing. They’re supposed to be these nice little distinct points surrounding cells, but with more irradiation, they essentially look exploded, moving away from their position.”

The researchers concluded that the disruption of these corneodesmosomes damages the skin’s structural integrity.

Now, Lipsky and German are trying to understand how UV radiation affects deep layers of the skin. While they’re trying to build on previous findings, the team advised that we always protect our skin regardless of the season.

We’re trying to push the message to use sunscreen not just for preventing skin cancer, but also to keep the integrity of your skin, so you don’t get infections or other problems.

Read More: Green Chemists Turn Cashew Nutshells Into Sunscreens

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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