Know some facts of sunscreen and how to properly use it for your protection.
Sunscreen, when used properly, works much akin to a thin and almost invisible bulletproof vest that contains organic molecules that absorb, scatter, and reflect UV rays, thus protecting you from a silent killer called the sun.
Over-exposure to UV rays means a significantly increased risk of skin cancer, which is the world’s most commonly diagnosed cancer.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, someone in the United States dies every hour from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Yet, 90% of skin cancers are preventable if we are proactive about properly protecting ourselves from over-exposure to UV-rays from the sun.
Among the simplest, most effective preventative measures we can take is by properly and regularly applying sunscreen.
Two decades ago, sunscreen was relatively unheard of, whereas today it has become part of our common jargon. Heightened awareness of skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen, even sun protective clothing have, in ways, only further confused us and perhaps even caused us to ignore the warnings.
Have you ever wondered why there have been occasions when you slapped on a pound of sunscreen before hitting the lake only to return home burnt to a crisp?
The problem is, we are told to use sunscreen but we aren’t instructed on how to properly apply it to maximize its efficacy.
Unlike a bulletproof vest, however, sunscreen must be re-applied in order for it to properly provide protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Consider the 30-20-2 rule: Apply SPF 15+ sunscreen to your skin at least 30-minutes prior to going outdoors even on cloudy days.
Then, reapply within the first 20-minutes of being outside to reinforce the protective barrier the sunscreen provides and then apply sunscreen consistently in two-hour intervals.
For children under 18, sunscreen must be applied every hour. The reason sunscreen works in this way is based on the mechanics of our skin.
Our skin works much like a sponge does. The top layer of our skin, called the epidermis, absorbs sunscreen, forming a protective layer on the skin that blocks UV rays from reaching the melanocytes or “pigmentation cells” that lie deep within the skin.
Your skin—the largest bodily organ—reaches its saturation point after approximately two hours, thus leaving you unprotected and causing sunburn and/or other skin-related damage. Hence, it is imperative that sunscreen must be reapplied in order to enhance its protective powers.
Alas, not all sunscreen products out on the market today work proficiently. To deliver the optimum level of protection, sunscreen must have sufficient amounts of essential ingredients.
In other words, when choosing a sunscreen product for your family, take a look at the bottle. Make sure it contains proven effective agents such as zinc oxide and Parasol 1789.
Furthermore, make sure the product is a broad-spectrum formula, meaning that it blocks both UV-B and UV-A rays. If the sunscreen is not a broad-spectrum formula, do not buy it.
You are not being sufficiently protected nor “covered” if your sunscreen does not clearly indicate that it protects from both UV-A and UV-B rays.
The significance of a broad-spectrum sunscreen cannot be over-emphasized. UV-B and UV-A rays have varied effects on your skin, your immune system, and your body as a whole.
UV-B irradiation disrupts the melanocytes (the cells deep beneath the epidermis of your skin responsible for your pigmentation), causing them to release the “redness” known as sunburn. Any change in the color of your skin as a result of over-exposure to the sun is a sign of damage, even if your skin tends to “tan” as opposed to burning.
UV-B irradiation disrupts the melanocytes (the cells deep beneath the epidermis of your skin responsible for your pigmentation), causing them to release the “redness” known as sunburn.
Any change in the color of your skin as a result of over-exposure to the sun is a sign of damage, even if your skin tends to “tan” as opposed to burning.
When this occurs, your melanocytes are trying to tell you that normal, healthy cells have been severely disrupted and therefore are attempting to compensate for that damage.
On the other hand, damage to your skin caused by UV-A irradiation is far more serious. UV-A rays are especially harmful as they penetrate deeper, breaking bonds of DNA which lead to cancer.
You typically do not see the immediate effects of UV-A rays, but they are the chief culprit behind photo-aging and wrinkling in addition to actinic keratoses, a precancerous skin condition.
Damage to your cells as a result from over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from a tanning bed is un-repairable.
Consider the following analogy: Have you ever left a basketball outside in the hot summer sun for a lengthy period of time? And after you retrieved the ball, you immediately notice that the elasticity of the ball is weakened—it feels “rubbery” and never quite “bounces back”?
This is exactly what happens to your skin as a result of prolonged UV-A exposure. Both UV-B and UV-A rays have cumulative effects and coupled together often lead to melanoma skin cancer.
Thus, make sure you understand “SPF” when purchasing a brand of sunscreen, and do not be fooled by those that claim to deliver a high level of protection.
For starters, “SPF” stands for sun protection factor or “sunburn protection factor”.
The way SPF works can be best described by the following example: An SPF 20 sunscreen is only allowing five out of every 100 UV protons to reach your skin. In other words, it is blocking out 95% of the UV rays from reaching your skin.
That being said, dermatologist-oncologist Sancy A. Leachman, director of the Tom C. Mathews Jr. Familial Melanoma Research Clinic at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, recommends an SPF 15 sunscreen as ideal for daily, year-round use.
Yet, if you are planning a long, leisurely day at the lake (or even a marathon day on the ski slopes), you will want to opt for an SPF 30 sunscreen and be sure to apply the 30-20-2 rule so as to prevent a painful reminder of your day of recreation.
In reality, sunscreen usage among Americans today has decreased by nearly 60%, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Could the lack of sun safety behavior be contributing to the ever-increasing skin cancer incidence and mortality?
Certainly, the world’s most common cancer could be easily prevented if we are proactive about choosing effective sunscreens and properly, proactively maximizing their efficacy.
Just visit the pharmacy section of your local store, and you quickly realize that buying sunscreen can be confusing as there are so many choices.
Do you buy the one with SPF 15 or 60? How much should you apply? And what exactly does “broad-spectrum” mean?
Chemical Compounds in Sunscreen
It is important when looking for sunscreen products, to choose those that provide protection against UVA and UVB rays.
You need to protect the surface of the skin and underneath the skin. Keeping the collagen and elastin intact will keep the surface of the skin safe from burning rays and Cancer causing rays.
The dangers involved in using most brands of Sun Care Products and the dangers of exposure to the sun
A big problem with the sun care industry is that in their attempt to provide higher SPF levels, they have had to increase the chemical compounds in sunscreen to allow prolonged safe exposure to the sun’s rays.
A team of experts from the University of Southern California has found that sunscreen can do more harm than good once it soaks into the skin, where it actually promotes the harmful compounds it is meant to protect against.
The research team found that three commonly ultraviolet (UV) filters: octomethoxycinnamate, benzophenone 3, and octocrylene eventually soak into the deeper layers of the skin after their application leaving the top skin layers vulnerable to sun damage.
UV rays absorbed by the skin can generate harmful compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can cause Skin Cancer and premature aging.
The researchers found that once the filters in sun screen soaked into the lower layer of the skin, the filters react with UV light to create more damaging ROS. Many of the top name brands fall into this category.
These are the ingredients of pure, safe sunscreen products with no chemicals:
-They contain safe ingredients for UVA and UVB protection.
-Anti-aging elements to protect the top of the skin as well as the collagen and elastin underneath the skin
-Vitamin C and Magnesium which promotes healthy development of collagen and elastin
-Peptides which are protein strands that enhance the skins own ability to build collagen and elastin.
Breakthrough in Sunscreen Technology
A new breakthrough in sunscreen technology, called Helioplex, combines two FDA-approved sunscreens and delivers highly effective stabilized UVA and UVB protection to shield from both forms of UV damage.
Sunscreens containing Helioplex, such as Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 55, offer strong, stable protection to shield skin against both UVA and UVB rays.
Tips When Buying Sunscreen
In what follows, you will get the answers as to what you should look for in a sunscreen:
Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect your skin from the sun’s two main types of ultraviolet rays – UVA (the dominant tanning ray) and UVB (known to cause burning). Neither one is safe, though, as they both contribute to aging in your skin and eyes, as well as skin cancers.
So if you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, you will be protecting your skin from burning, skin cancer, wrinkling, and another aging of the skin.
2. Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
The SPF refers to the level of blockage against UVB (it does not include UVA) rays that the sunscreen provides. So the higher the SPF is, the longer you can stay in the sun before you burn.
For example, an SPF 30 means you can stay in the sun longer before you burn than if you are using a sunscreen with SPF 15.
However, this does NOT mean that you can stay in the sun twice as long. Instead, it means that the SPF 30 would block out approximately 97% of the UVB rays, and an SPF 15 would block out approximately 94% of UVB rays.
If you are highly sensitive to the sun, then you will want to use sunscreen with higher SPF. However, those sunscreens with SPF 100, for example, will not block 100% of the UVB rays. No sunscreen does that.
Many physicians recommend their patients use products with SPF ratings of 30-45 if they will be spending extended time outdoors. Products with SPF 15 can be effective for incidental sun exposure, and can be found in many face moisturizers.
3. Water Resistance
If you will be sweating outside or swimming, you want something that stays on your skin better, and that is less likely to drip into your eyes.
Once you buy your sunscreen, there are a couple things that you need to know about its application:
1. Slather It On
Most people do not put enough sunscreen on. The SPF level you get from your sunscreen will depend on how thick you put on your sunscreen.
The less sunscreen you put on, the less protection your skin is actually getting.
A good guideline for adults is to use an ounce to cover the whole body.
2. Put it on before you go outdoors
It takes time for the sunscreen to absorb into the skin and begin working properly.
3. Reapply often
No matter what level of SPF you are using, you should always reapply your sunscreen every 90 minutes to two hours, or sooner if you have been sweating or swimming.
Hopefully, this article is helpful enough for you to understand what type of sunscreen should you buy and how to make the most of its effectiveness.