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UV Rays

3 Types of UV rays and how to protect your skin from these rays: A complete Guide

Do you enjoy being outside? But are you concerned that your healthy skin could be harmed by the sun's UV rays? Yes, even 15 minutes of sun exposure can have an impact on your skin, sometimes even doing serious harm. Whether you enjoy being outside or not, UV radiation can harm you everywhere including indoors.

In this article, you will take a closer look at UV radiation types, how they damage your skin, and what safeguards you can use to lessen their negative effects.


UV radiation

The entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that the sun emits and sends to the earth includes non-ionizing ultraviolet (UV) radiations. UV radiation causes skin damage in a variety of ways. UV radiation is categorized based on the wavelength of the photons. From longest to shortest, UVA, UVB, and UVC wavelengths are ordered by length.

Sunlight mostly emits UVA and some UVB rays that reach us. Sunlight is a natural source of ultraviolet (UV) rays, but there are also some artificial sources, including mercury vapor lamps, some halogens, fluorescents, and incandescent lights.

Types of UV radiation

UV rays emit radiation at various wavelengths, just like visible light. UV radiation is categorized based on the wavelength of the photons.

UVA rays has longest wavelength and has lowest energy which means it affects top layer of skin. Additionally, the inner cells are somewhat agitated, which results in quick tanning, sunburn, etc. On the other hand, UVB results in significant sunburn, blistering, and delayed tanning.

UVC rays are rarely a problem for you because the environment absorbs them. However, mercury lamps, arc welding torches, and UVC sanitizing lights can all expose you to UVC radiation.

The various UV radiation types are compared in this chart:

What are UV rays






Longest (315-400nm)

Medium (315-280nm)

Lowest (100-280nm)



More than UVA


Skin penetration

Penetrates deeper into the skin

Penetrates the outermost layer of skin

Cannot penetrate beyond dead skin layer of the epidermis

Effect on skin

Tanning, skin ageing, wrinkles.

Short term effects are burning and tanning. Long term are skin cancer and ageing of skin

Redness and ulceration. Prolonged exposures are akin ageing and skin cancer


Only in rare cases

Causes of skin cancer in humans

Since sunlight cannot reach humans, UVC is typically not a risk factor for cancer.

% Reaching earth


Around 5%

Does not reach us, completely absorbed by ozone.


Sun, tanning beds

Sun , tanning beds

Mercury lamps, arc welding torch, UVC sanitizing lights.

 Types of UV rays

1. UVA Radiation

As far as wavelengths are concerned, UVA rays are the longest. When it is daylight, UVA rays are present, no matter what the weather is, the main concern is the percentage of UVA rays reach us.

The main cause of skin tanning is exposure to UVA radiation. The collagen and elastin proteins that provide your skin firmness and suppleness are damaged by UVA rays since they penetrate your skin the deepest. Also, cause skin cancers by indirect DNA damage. Use broad spectrum sunscreen at least when you are outdoors.

There are 2 types of UVA rays:

  • 1. UVA 1: 340-400nm
  • 2. UVA2 : 320- 340nm

It is crucial to remember that some sunscreen creams can only block a certain range of light wavelengths. The best sunscreen to choose is one that provides defense against a wide range of UV radiation.

2. UVB rays

Because the ozone layer filters off UVB rays, their radiation content is only 5%. They harm the skin's outermost layers and directly destroy DNA since they have shorter wavelengths and higher energies.

The time of day, the season, and the location all affect how intense UVB radiation is. Particularly during the hot summer months, UVB is more prevalent in sunny, tropical regions. To protect your skin from the damaging effects of UVB, apply sufficient sunscreen whether you're taking a beach vacation or hiking a steep mountain.

3. UVC rays

UVC Rays

UVC rays are completely absorbed by the ozone layer. The main source of these rays is arc welding torch, mercury lamps and sanitizing lights.

Effects of UV exposure (short and long term)

1. UVA rays

Short-term effects: Tanning, sunburn

Long-term effects: Wrinkles, premature ageing, certain skin cancers.

2. UVB rays

Short-term effects: sunburn, blisters and tanning

Long-term effects: Skin cancer, premature ageing

3. UVC rays

Short-term effects: redness, ulcers, burns

Long-term effects: premature ageing, skin cancer

Tips to protect skin from UV radiation

1. Avoid sun exposure

Restrict time spent outside in the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, especially if a high UV index is forecast. Do not neglect using sun protection even if you are in the shade because UV rays can still reach your skin.

2. Cover yourself

To protect your skin from the sun, wear full-sleeved clothing made of denser materials. Sunglasses or eyewear with UV filters should also be used to reduce the risk of UV damage to your face and eyes.

3. Sunscreen

UVA UVB Sunscreen

Make sure you wear a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen cream or lotion with at least SPF 30 when you are outdoors in the sun.

Physical sunscreens with oxide and titanium dioxide are a good choice because they are both safe and efficient. You can also use a chemical sunscreen with a mineral base, which has a more aesthetically pleasing texture and appearance.

Key Take Away

The solar radiation spectrum that reaches the earth includes the UV rays. UVA and UVB rays cause the most damage to your skin. They affect your skin differently and have varying levels of penetration. While it is impossible to totally shield yourself from the sun's UV rays, you can take the necessary precautions to lessen their harmful effects.

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