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Skin Health: sunlight and radiation

caregiver helping her client

Author: Alcibiades Rives, RN | Director of Nursing

Sunlight is essential for many natural processes of life. Sunlight announces the beginning of each day, and in its absence, the end. The plants need it for energy, which is transferred to the animals who consume the plants in an endless cycle of transferred energy. Sunlight produces the warmth needed for animals to survive. It signals changes in seasons and favorable weather for outdoor activities. Lack of sunlight is linked to depression, and low vitamin D. However, without proper the protection sunlight can actually be very harmful in the long run.

Research suggest that radiation emitted from the sun such as ultraviolet A radiation (UVA), and ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) may negatively impact skin health.

  • Ultraviolet A Radiation (UVA) negatively impacts skin health by aging the skin
    • The physical properties of these rays allow for the radiation to travel deep into the skin. The depth the radiation travels allows for the UVA change the skin’s natural structure.
      • These changes are visible as wrinkles, freckles, and texture changes. Collagen a protein responsible for the skin’s texture and elasticity is directly damaged by exposure to UVA.
    • Ultraviolet A radiation is the most abundant type of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. The radiation can penetrate cloud coverage, even windows of a car or of the home.
      • Individuals often are not aware that they are being exposed because they assume risk is only present on a sunny day, or direct exposure.
      • UVA radiation has proven difficult to block via use of sunblock and not all sunblock may stop UVA radiation.
  • Ultraviolet B Radiation (UVB) causes sunburns and is linked to development of certain skin cancers.
    • Ultraviolet B radiation is the second most dangerous form of radiation from the sun. Ultraviolet B radiation is responsible for the sunburn and subsequent topical skin damage. The “UVB rays also play the greatest role in causing skin cancers, including the deadly black mole form of skin cancer (malignant melanoma).” (UIHC, 2018).
    • The skin has evolved protective devices that help protect from sunline such as melanin. Melanin is the protein responsible for our skin’s pigmentation. The more abundant this protein, the more protection against the sun.
      • UVB rays have a difficult time penetrating darker skins, therefore, risks of skin cancers are more prevalent with fair skinned individuals.
    • The UVB radiation is still absorbed by the skin despite skin pigmentation. The rays cause an inflammatory response by the skin leading to redness, swelling, pain and tenderness. The response is acute and subsides over time, however, the DNA in the area has been affected.
      • “Mutations and cancer can result from many of these modifications to DNA.” (D'Orazio, Jarrett, Amaro-Ortiz, & Scott, 2013).
      • Some sunburns are so mild a person may not recognize they are in danger. The best way to protect against sun exposure and potential risk for skin cancers is to cover the skin.

The elderly population, one that we are very familiar with as we provides in-home care services for many seniors, are most at risk for decreased skin integrity due to changes in skin caused by the normal aging process. Older adult’s skin burns quickly under direct exposure and their skin tends to heal slowly. Our elders may not notice changes in body temperature that occurs when the skin is burned; and often don’t drink enough water. The combination can may lead to symptoms of dehydration and fluid electrolyte imbalances. Caregivers for the elderly should prepare in advance for the sun exposure, the same way someone grabs an umbrella for the rain. Individuals who expect to spend a considerable amount of time in the sun are encouraged to incorporate multiple protective measure for blocking the sun. Sunblock is recommended and must have a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15. It must indicate protection against UVA and UVB for full protection. The use of sunblock alone is not enough. Using long sleeve shirts, hats and sunglasses to protect from direct exposure. Keep in mind that too much clothing may overheat the body, and it’s important to hydrate well and have plenty of water available. Plan outdoor activities before for early morning or after 6pm. Our caregivers can aide in preparing your loved one for their next morning walk, sunny outdoor trip, or even to work around the garden. Our staff at Homewatch CareGivers of Southwest Broward is ready for the summer heat. We want you and your loved ones to feel energized, protected and cool this summer.


D'Orazio, J., Jarrett, S., Amaro-Ortiz, A., & Scott, T. (2013, June 7). UV radiation and the skin. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from

Grabel, A. (2019, January 10). Photoaging: What You Need to Know About the Other Kind of Aging. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from

University of Iowa, H. (2018, October 09). What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? Retrieved July 12, 2020, from

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