Whether your spring has been filled with sunshine or rain, the blazing summer sun has arrived. Yes, that means fun trips to the beach and picnics in the park. But it also means applying sunscreen daily for protection, so let's review some suncare basics!
Why do I need sunscreen?
The glorious, warm sunshine that so many of us love comes at a price. Whether you’re out in the sun for a short or long period of time, it is constantly damaging your skin.
Some people believe that if their skin doesn’t burn easily, they don’t need sunscreen. However, even if you don't see a burn or feel pain, the sun damages skin cells beneath the surface. It’s just that the sun’s effects can takes a long time (as in many years) to appear. Dark spots and wrinkles most likely won’t show up during adolescence or even our young adult lives. But as our bodies begin to mature, the sun’s damage will manifest a lot quicker than most people would imagine.
How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreens are formulated with several ingredients that prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. They both damage the skin, cause signs of aging and increase the risk of skin cancer.
UVA vs. UVB
The main difference between the two types of UV rays is that UVA penetrates the skin on a deeper level (right down to the dermis) than UVB does. UVB is present in sunnier climates and is the main cause for sun spots, discoloration, tanning and other visible changes to the skin’s surface. While UVB can be blocked by glass, UVA can penetrate clouds and windows. UVA also has the same intensity year round, even when it’s not sunny. It is one of the main causes of signs of aging and wrinkles on our skin.
An easy way to remember the difference is to associate UVA with Ultraviolet Aging and UVB with Ultraviolet Burning. When you’re outdoors, your skin is always exposed to either UVB, UVA or both, which is precisely why you should always wear sunscreen!
Choosing a sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Both work to protect your skin from the sun, but in different ways: physical sunscreens reflect rays and chemical sunscreens absorb the rays.
Physical sunscreens tend to be thicker, leave a white cast and work by forming a layer on the skin to reflect the UV rays. Two of the primary physical sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Common chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. When applied, they are thinner and leave little to no white cast. Chemical sunscreens work by changing UV radiation into heat and then releasing that heat from the skin.
SPF or “broad spectrum”
“SPF” stands for sun protection factor and is a measure of how long you can stay in the sun before your skin starts to burn. For example, if you burn after being in the sun for 10 minutes, then SPF 15 will allow you to be in the sun for 15 times longer (or 150 minutes) before burning. SPF lotions only indicate UVB protection, not UVA protection. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
Sunscreen + Coverage = Ultimate Sun Protection
Even though sunscreen helps to block UV radiation, no sunscreen can filter out all of the sun’s rays. If you’re swimming or sweating, dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen every two hours, regardless of SPF.
If you want to go the extra mile for your skin (and who doesn’t?), covering up with clothing, umbrellas, hats and sunglasses can further decrease sun exposure. Antioxidants can also help protect your skin. Clinically proven to fight free-radical skin damage, they can strengthen your skin’s defense.
RELATED READ: How Are Free Radicals Harmful?
Now, go enjoy your fun in the sun!
Just remember the dangers of sun exposure. So slap on that sunscreen, rock your finest floppy hat and eat some colorful fruits. Your future skin will thank you!