Why Does Sunlight Damage Our Skin?


If you believed the headlines, just about everything, from cell phones to coffee, causes cancer. Most of those headlines are overblown, at best, but there are still plenty of carcinogens out there. Some of these, like smoking, are avoidable. Others, like sunlight, are a little trickier. The video above from the American Chemical Society explains how the sun can damage us and why we’d be wise to take precautions.

Given its constant and almost mundane presence in our lives, it’s easy to forget that the Sun is a star, but it is. And like all the other stars, it gives off intense radiation (what we usually call sunshine). Fortunately, our planet is surrounded by a marvelous natural shield: the ozone layer. Gases in the atmosphere bear the brunt of the Sun’s force, allowing just a trickle of ultraviolet radiation through. Of course, “a trickle” is relative. Those rays are still strong enough to burn our skin and damage our DNA if we’re not careful. 

Sun exposure is kind of like crushing a cookie in your fist; there’s not much you can do to fix it once the damage is done. But you can take steps to protect yourself now and decrease future harm. Wear sunscreen every day (yes, even in the winter), indoors and out, and reapply every two hours. We know you’re sick of hearing it now, but you’ll thank us later.

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