Shining a (UV) Light on Sunscreen
One of the best parts of summer is enjoying outdoor activities like ballgames, running, barbecues and being on a boat. Though the sun may feel terrific there can be cruel consequences if you don’t protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Everyone knows the sad facts about unprotected exposure to the sun – that it causes premature aging of the skin damaging the skin cells and increases the risk of skin cancer. Even those bad sunburns when you were a kid can cause potentially fatal skin cancer later in life.
Regardless of skin pigment, anyone can get skin cancer so sun protection is important for everyone. A complete sun protection plan involves common sense and using sunscreen. Here is a combination of three sun protection tools that everyone should know or be reminded of:
Avoid 10am – 4pm
UV rays are most harmful between 10 am and 4 pm. Limit sun time during these hours.
Think about covering up
When in the sun, cover up with long sleeves, long pants and a broad-brimmed hat. Still, UV lights pass through fabric, so sunscreen should be worn under regular clothing. There are also shirts like rash guard – shirts made of a mix of polyester or nylon and spandex – that are now swim tops specifically designed to block UV rays and carry an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating to indicate how well they filter out the sun.
Avoiding the sun or clothing yourself from head to toe is smart but is often impractical. Sunscreen is the most vital tool that everyone no matter the skin tone should use.
Know your sunscreen numbers, terms, abbreviations and ingredients
With so many sunscreen options on the market, choosing a sunscreen means arming yourself with knowledge and understanding of numbers, terms, abbreviations and ingredients.
Numbers – Think 30
Every sunscreen carries a sun protection factor(SPF). The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends choosing a sunscreen with a protection factor of 30 for maximum effectiveness. Numbers above 30 are not much more protective and may cost more.
Broad Spectrum – that’s UVA, UVB. HEV, and IR-A rays
Broad Spectrum is an important term to look for in sunscreen. It’s lots to think about. And you are best off if you know what those abbreviations stand for. Broad spectrum means protecting oneself against both UVA and UVB rays as well as HEV and IR-A rays. UVB rays cause sunburn, which essentially causes injury to the top layer of the skin: UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, causing premature aging. Though most people think skin damage and UV, most don’t know about the damaging effects of high-energy visible (HEV) light. It is 1/3 of all light and is sometimes called blue light. Then there is the IR-A radiation from the sun. Where the UV light makes up seven percent of the sun’s rays, about 50% of it is made up of infrared –A (IR-A) light.
Water and Sweat Resistance
Water resistant” means sunscreen is formulated to perform well despite the presence of water or sweat. Because no sunscreen lasts indefinitely when you are swimming or sweating, the FDA bans the use of “waterproof” or “sweatproof” on product labels. They should have a specific test, though that you should find one of two ratings:
· water resistant for 40 minutes
· water resistant for 80 minutes
Be aware, though that toweling off your skin removes sunscreen. So regardless of the water resistance rating and time you think you have left you need to reapply sunscreen immediately after you use a towel.
Understand Active Ingredients – Physical and chemical blockers
Two main types of active ingredients are found in sunscreen. Physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide reflect sunlight and help keep it from being absorbed into the skin. Chemical blockers like oxybenzone and avobenzone, absorb damaging rays, preventing them from traveling deeper into the skin. Neither type is 100 percent effective so a combination of sunscreen types is the best idea.
Application Guidelines – the Right Way! (Chances are, you have been lax!)
Almost everyone uses too little sunscreen and no one puts it on correctly. Embrace the application tips below and you will be one of the few who use sunscreen the right way.
· Far more important than the sunscreen you choose is the way you apply it. An SPF 50 sunscreen applied haphazardly provides much less protection than an SPF 30 (or SPF 15) sunscreen applied conscientiously.
· Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure. This is true for all sunscreens.
· Use massively more sunscreen than you think you should. A rule of thumb for a person wearing shorts and a T-shirt is to use at least one ounce (visualize a full shot glass) and make sure your cover every square inch of exposure.
· Reapply at least every two hours. True for all sunscreens, this is another guideline that many people are lax in following.
· Pack enough for the trip. Though it might sound like a sunscreen sales ploy, two people on a four-hour hike on a sunny day should use an entire 4-ounce tube. To put it another way if you are looking at an old tube’s expiration date, you more than likely didn’t apply enough the last time you used it.
· Use a sunscreen daily of 15 SPF or higher. This is a recommendation of the Skin Cancer Foundation.
· Sunscreen and infants: Use only shade to protect kids under six months of age because their skin can easily absorb sunscreen.
· Sunscreen expiration dates: A rule of thumb is that a sunscreen is good for up to three years, though the best indicator is the “use by” date on the product. Store sunscreen in a cool, dry place because heat and humid hasten its demise.
Factors that call for extra vigilance (and common sense) in reducing your UV exposure
· You have a pale skin tone. If you have dark skin, though don’t assume you can skip sunscreen because your skin can still suffer UV damage, though it may be as easy to detect.
· You are putting it on a child. Kids have thinner, more sensitive skin. Damage at an early age can also increase their risk of more serious problems later in life.
· You are taking certain medications. Sun sensitivity is increased by such drugs that treat acne, antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and herbal supplements. Double-check all medications for cautions for the sun.
· It is summer time. Light is more intense in summer than in winter.
· You’ll be outside midday. Light is more intense midday than it is in the morning or afternoon.
· You’ll be at high altitude. The higher you climb, the more intense the sunlight.
· You’ll be where there’s water or snow. You can get burned purely by reflective light so you should where sunscreen even when you are in full shade and on or near water or snow.
· You’re applying sunscreen to vulnerable areas. The nose, ears, back of the hands and neck tend to get more sun exposure than other areas of your body.
Medical grade sunscreen brands at Lazaderm
With SPF ratings from 30 to 50, EltaMD believes that proper sun protection is essential for every individual. The product lauds its physical blocker – zinc oxide. And the broad-spectrum formulas are designed for all skin types. It is available in clear or tinted broad spectrum.
Zo Skin Health by Zein Obagi has developed the broadest, most comprehensive range of sun protection available. Zo sunscreens use the power of triple-spectrum protection and protect against UVA/UVB, HEV and IR-A rays.
Protect yourself and buy your sunscreen now!
Do you think you know all there is to know about sunscreen and don’t need to read the about tips and information? Take this quiz! You knowledge (or lack of it) will shine a light on how much you still have to learn.
1. What is not one of the things you should look for in a sunscreen?
Water and sweat resistant
Contains Titanium Dioxide
Answer: Sunblock – The words “waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock” are no longer allowed on sunscreen labels.
2. What should you apply first?
Answer: moisturizer – After your moisturizer you should apply sunscreen then makeup.
3. How much sunscreen should an adult use per application?
One ounce – enough to fill a shot glass
A pea-sized drop
Answer: one ounce
4. How long should a bottle of sunscreen be effective?
Answer: 3 years The FDA requires that sunscreens keep their strength for three years.
5. Is an SPF 30 sunscreen twice as strong as one with an SPF of 15?
Answer: NO – SPF 15 sunscreens block 94% of the sun’s rays, and SPF 30 blocks 97% – so the SPF numbers are a bit misleading to consumers.
6. What is the minimum SPF you should use?
Answer: 30 – Dermatologists recommend a minimum of 30 SPF?
7. How long before you go out in the sun should you apply sunscreen?
15 to 30 minutes
30 minutes to an hour
At least an hour
Answer: 30 minutes to an hour – Most dermatologists recommend that you apply sunscreen 30 minutes to an hour before you go out.
8. If you usually burn after 10 minutes of being out in the sun, how many minutes do you have using a 30 SPF?
Answer: 300 – If you put on sunscreen with 30 SPF, you should have around 300 minutes, or five hours, of safe sun time.
9. What two sunscreen ingredients are safest for babies?
Titanium dioxide and octinoxate
Zinc oxide and octinoxate
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
Answer: Zinc Oxide and titanium dioxide are safest for a baby’s skin. These are also good ingredients to look for in adult sunscreen.
10. Why are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide such good ingredients?
They are chemical blockers – They keep the sun’s ray’s from penetrating the skin.
They are physical blockers – They physically deflect the sun’s rams from the skin.
They penetrate the skin more deeply than other ingredients do.
Answer: Physical blockers – Physical blockers are much more effective sunscreens.
11. What are some other ingredients you should look for?
Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX
Oxybenzone and octisalate
Oxycontin and avobenzone
Answer: Avobenzone and Mexoryl SX are fairly new ingredients that protect against both UVA and UVB rays