Proper sun protection is important all year round but during the summer when harmful UV rays become more intense, it should be even more of a priority especially considering most people don't even think about sun protection unless they plan on being outdoors for an extended amount amount of time. Prolonged sun exposure not only increases your risk for skin cancer but it is also a leading cause of premature aging and dull and sagging skin. Get the facts and be sun safe.
- Sunlight consists of two types of rays. UVA rays are prevalent all year round and make up 95% of the earth's UV radiation. They can contribute to signs of premature aging such as wrinkles and sunspots. UVB rays cause sunburn and damage to your skin. It should be noted that exposure to either can lead to skin cancer.
- The sun is at it's strongest and most harmful between the hours of 10:00am - 4:00pm.
- UV rays are always around, not just on sunny days. Up to 80% of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds.
- Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen every day you are outside.
- SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of the ratio it adds to the amount of time you can spend in the sun without burning. So if you normally burn after 30 minutes of exposure, an SPF of 15 would protect you for 450 minutes.
- Traditional sunscreens usually only protect against UVB rays so always look for broad spectrum protection which will also shield against those deep penetrating UVA rays. There are two kinds.
- Physical sunscreens also known as mineral or inorganic sunscreens work by sitting on top of your skin to deflect or block UV rays. The most common physical sunscreen ingredients are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Physical sunblocks tend to be opaque and feel heavier but are usually better for sensitive skin though Titanium dioxide can cause some people to break out. They don't have to be absorbed and start working immediately when applied but they also need to be reapplied more often as they tend to rub off easily.
- Chemical sunscreens also know as organic sunscreens work by absorbing the sun's rays via a chemical reaction and dispelling the excess energy as heat. Common chemical sunblock ingredients include Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Helioplex, 4-MBC, Mexoryl SX and XL, Tinosorb S and M, and Uvinul T 150 and Uvinul A Plus . Oxybenzone has been cited as controversial because it can penetrate the skin and disrupt hormones. Chemical sunblocks may offer more consistent coverage against UVA and UVB rays but they're can also more likely to be potentially irritating. They're often colorless, odorless, and have a watery texture. It is recommended to apply chemical type sunscreens at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
- Those seeking a natural sun protection solution can try an oil. Carrot seed oil for example has a reported SPF of 30 while coconut oil has an SPF of 10.
- No matter what you choose, make sure you wait at least 20 minutes before sun exposure post application.
- A higher SPF doesn't necessarily equate to more protection. An SPF of 30 blocks about 97% of UV rays. Any number higher than that actually only increases the protection by one to two percent. No sunscreen currently on the market can block 100% of UV rays.
- Reapplication and coverage are the real keys to sunscreen effectiveness. Regardless of the SPF, you should reapply your sunscreen every few hours when outdoors and especially after swimming or sweating.
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends for people to use an SPF of at least 30 on both the face and body.
- You can't just rely on the SPF in your moisturizer or makeup for protection. Most people just don't wear enough to get the actual SPF on the label.
- To get the level of protection listed on your bottle, you will need to apply 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon worth of product to your face and neck and one ounce (a shotglass) to your entire body. With sunscreen more is literally more. And don't forget about your ears and scalp.
- Most experts agree that suncare products should always be the last step of your skin care/makeup routine since any product applied over it can reduce their effectiveness.
- There is really no such thing as layering SPF. You will usually just get the SPF from the higher numbered product.
- Pay attention to the expiration date on your sunscreen and don't use it once it has expired. The active ingredients will break down and become deactivated over time.
- Store your sunscreen in a cool place. Heat and light can also lead to a loss of efficacy.
- Sunscreen is not enough. Protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and seeking shade offer even better defense.
- Beware of reflective surfaces such as water and sand as they can reflect up to 85% of the sun's damaging rays.
If you have concerns about sunscreens causing cancer, read this and this. For more information about both physical and chemical sunscreens, check out this helpful chart.
No matter what level and type of protection you choose, just make sure you choose to be sun safe.
How do you practice sun safety? I've recently starting using a UV umbrella.
Photo: Models in Red Swimwear on Beach by Louise Dahl Wolfe, 1959 via Vogue