UV-Induced Free Radical Effects on the Skin: Skin Aging Explained

Heather Campbell
 min read

UV-induced free radical effects on the skin are something we often hear of, but what do you know about them?

UV-induced free radical effects on the skin: Skin aging explained

Air and environmental pollution harm our bodies. In fact, the unprotected areas of the skin are the most affected, making them age more rapidly than the protected parts of the body.

Free radicals are atoms with an uneven number of protons, that can damage our cells. Sunrays cause UV-induced free radicals in the skin and wreak untold damage on body cells by modifying their structure or destroying them totally. Hence the importance of limiting sun exposure.

Certain factors such as stress, lack of sleep, or simply a poor lifestyle can also affect skin aging.

One of the main ways to protect your skin would be to clean it twice daily. In fact, it is essential to wash off the dirt and impurities that accumulate on the surface of the skin morning and night.

In addition, it is also helpful to regularly use natural cosmetic products adapted to your skin.

Read on to learn more about the different factors that cause skin aging and what you can do to avoid them.

UV-induced free radical effects on the skin: Introduction

Effects Of Uv-A And Uv-B Rays And Free Radicals On Human Skin

For a long time, we have been told that the direct effects of ultraviolet rays harm the skin and it can also cause the appearance of skin cancer.

The sun's rays are one of the most powerful factors in skin aging.

Under their influence, the skin proteins (elastane and collagen) are destroyed, whereas their main role is to maintain the shape of the skin cells.

As a result, the skin loses elasticity, premature wrinkles form, and some age spots appear.

To avoid this, it is necessary to regularly use special cosmetic sunscreens to reduce your skin's exposure to the sun.

Interestingly, ultraviolet rays are classified into A, B, and C groups. Among these, the most dangerous for humans are the spectral C-rays. 

Fortunately, they do not reach the surface of the Earth and are therefore rendered harmless in the ozone layer of the atmosphere.

B-beams penetrate the ozone layer quite freely, and today this effect is becoming more intense.

These rays, acting on the superficial layers of the skin, contribute to melanin production, which gives the skin a darker complexion.

Sunburn is a response of the skin, that is, its attempt to protect itself.

The longest rays are the A spectrum rays which do not significantly affect people.

They have not been proven to cause skin burns, but they can cause sun allergies and premature skin aging if your skin is constantly exposed to these UVA rays.

As a result, it can also lead to a decrease in the immune defenses of the entire body.

Tip: Avoid exposing your body to constant and prolonged sun exposure, as natural protection is insufficient.

Middle-Aged Woman With Sunburn On Forehead Nose And Cheeks From Uv Rays That Damaged Cell Walls

The rays of the spectrum, when they penetrate the skin, damage the cell walls and cause sunburn.

For a long time, exposure to A-spectrum rays was considered harmless because, even in excess, these rays do not cause burning or discomfort.

However, it is now proven that they penetrate the inner layers of the skin and can cause irreversible changes in collagen and elastin.

Related post: Vegetables and fruits that boost the skin's collagen and hyaluronic acid levels

As a result, skin tone diminishes, and wrinkles and age spots appear. They can also modify the structure of cells, thus causing several allergic reactions to the sun.

Our skin can only protect its body from ultraviolet rays during its lifetime for 60,000 to 160,000 hours, depending on the skin type.

When facing the sun, a person must be cautious and as safe as possible. Otherwise, it is possible to lose the ability of skin cells to heal themselves after exposure to ultraviolet light.

Related post: 7 Powerful healing herbs with medicinal benefits (backed by science)

This light is very dangerous because it tends to accumulate on the skin. Studies have shown that two months of intense tanning ages the skin by six months.

Sun protection products

Woman With Hat On Looks Toward Sea And Applies Sunscreen To Her Left Shoulder Blade With Left Hand

To protect your skin from UV rays, it is essential to use sun protection products. When you do get a sunburn, wear adequate clothing to limit further exposure to the sun. 

To protect your skin from ultraviolet rays, you should use sunscreen with a good sun protection factor.

All protection products are divided by factors (SPF or IP), showing how long you can stay in the sun without fear of burning. For example, if you have fair skin, you can quickly get sunburned in 5 minutes. 

Therefore, you should use a cream with a high enough SPF, with which you can be under the rays for longer.

No matter your sunscreen's sun protection factor, it is imperative to frequently reapply sunscreen, especially after swimming, even if it is water-resistant.

On the other hand, if you have a dark skin type, you can easily sunbathe without a protection for around an hour.

Icons Of Spf 50 High Protection Factor Against The Harmful Effects Of Sun Rays

The SPF is calculated in the laboratory, but unfortunately, it is impossible to consider your specific conditions when determining it.

For example, the sun exposure conditions will vary, such as the strength of ultraviolet radiation at different times of day, the frequency of sunbathing, the amount you sweat, and contact with water, sand, or beach towels.

Good to know: when choosing a cream, please pay attention to the additional properties of the creams, such as whether they are waterproof, sand proof, and sweatproof.

Keep in mind that the sunscreen only takes effect 10 minutes after application. Therefore, it is advisable to apply it evenly until it is completely absorbed before going out.

UV-induced free radical effects on the skin

Infographic Showing Causes Of Formation Of Free Radicals Including Uv Light With Dna Damage As Ultimate Consequence

UV rays are the main cause of free radicals in our skin, also known as active oxidants.

These are unstable oxygen molecules with dangerous effects to the skin as they take energy from healthy skin cells and cause oxidative stress.

As such, they can destroy cell membranes, leading to cancerous tumors, autoimmune diseases, and others.

However, according to some scientific research, free radicals are harmless and are produced by the body for another purpose: fighting infections.

These studies determined that the active oxidants are produced by leukocytes. If this process is interrupted, resistance to infection decreases.

People whose free radical synthesis is genetically blocked will suffer from severe chronic diseases.

Evolution From Healthy Cell On Left To Cell Attacked By Free Radicals In Center To Cell With Oxidative Stress That Is Quasi-Dead On Right

Still in this research, scientists recognize that free radicals can destroy human cell membranes.

However, these researchers call it a consequence of the process to fight infection.

In addition, they also question the appropriateness of using popular drugs, namely antioxidants, whose mechanism of action is to neutralize active oxidants and thus free radicals.

The life span of the different cells in the human body varies. For example, some brain cells can live up to 120 years, while cells in some other tissues last only a few days.

Not all cells live to the fullest extent of their given time because there are substances in the body that prevent their vital activity.

Death Of A Cell Due To Free Radicals And Oxidative Stress Graphically Represented Which Can Lead To Serious Diseases And Premature Death

Over time, cell death or damage leads to diseases that can shorten a person's life span.

There are four leading causes of cell damage which are:

  • an increase in the number of active oxygen radicals,
  • an increase in the oxidation of lipids,
  • destruction or damage of protein molecules, and
  • mutations in cell structures.

If the number of free radicals exceeds all the allowed values, there will be an adverse effect on your body.

Even though free radicals exist only for a short period (seconds), they cause untold damage to your cells by interacting with fatty acids and oxidizing them, leaving cell walls fragile and destroyed.

Free radicals can also break down polysaccharides, which produce synovial fluid that serves as a lubricant for the joints. As a result, it can lead to joint disease.

UV-induced free radical effects on the skin: Conclusion

Photo Of Man With Young Face On Left Side And Aged Face With Wrinkling On Right Side Focus On Factors Contributing To Such Skin Aging

Whether it is pollution, free radicals, or the sun, all are factors that cause skin aging.

It is possible to maintain healthy skin by avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun.

Therefore, it is essential to use sun protection adapted to your skin type when you decide to sunbathe.

Taking care of your skin helps to slow down the skin aging process. All you have to do is adopt a healthy lifestyle with natural skincare products!

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More