Sun Care

Electromagnetic Spectrum and photoaging

Today, we are writing about the electromagnetic spectrum.

Now, you can be forgiven for thinking this is an unusual topic to be discussing, especially for a skincare site.

But in fact, it is essential when it comes to the health of your skin.

So, if you are keen to understand how radiation affects your skin, read on.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Our eyes are naturally designed to detect visible radiation or visible light waves.

This type of light or radiation penetrates our atmosphere and can be detected on the earth’s surface by the naked eye.

Some radiation we can see, but there are many types of radiation that we actually can’t see; this is referred to as the electromagnetic spectrum, which is made up of 8 different parts:

  • radio Waves
  • microwaves
  • terahertz Radiation
  • Infrared light (IR)
  • visible light
  • Ultraviolet rays (UV)
  • X-Rays
  • gamma Rays

All of this radiation travels at the speed of light; the only difference between these types of radiation is their wavelength (which increases) or frequency (which decreases).

  • radio
  • visible light
  • some infrared
  • a small amount of ultraviolet radiation

This is tradiationches us on the earth’s surface from outer space; we are lucky that the atmosphere helps to block out all the rest, which is deadly to the human body.

UV: Radiation is part of this electromagnetic sphere that reaches the earth from the sun.

The Rays that Affect Our Skin


UVA Rays, how damaging are they to the skin” href=””>UVA accounts for 95% of radiation reaching the earth’s surface; we are exposed to masses of this through our lifetime. UVA rays cause tanning, and the shorter wavelengths of these rays also cause sunburn.

The skin tries to prevent this damage by darkening, which results in a tan. Over time, UVA leads to premature ageing, which is why it is dubbed the ageing ray.

Not only does UVA play a significant role in photoaging, but it also damages keratinocytes in the basal layer, which is where most skin cancers occur. Interestingly, sunlight has approximately 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays.


UVB damages the outermost layer of the skin and can directly damage our DNA. It causes skin reddening and sunburn and plays a role in developing skin cancer and photoaging.


UVC is a shorter ray; no conclusive research has found that UVC can penetrate our skin. However, a school of thought suggests fluorescent light bulbs can damage UVC.

Follow the link to find out about Infrared Rays and the skin.

Time of Day Effects UVB and UVA

  • UVB rays are only present when the sun is high between 12 and 2 pm
  • UVA rays are closer in wavelengths, so they are present all day long, in fact, every day all year round
  • UV radiation also increases with altitude; for every 300 meters you ascend, there is a 4% increase.

Apologies for going all sciencey on you, but hopefully, now, you begin to get more of an idea of how these damaging rays are formed.

Join us here to find out more facts about sun-damaged skin.

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