Before you go outdoors, make sure to protect yourself from sun exposure that can put you at risk. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with millions of people diagnosed each year. Basal cell and squamous cell cancer make up 95 percent of skin cancers and are caused by long-term, cumulative exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
One of the summer’s essentials, sunscreen is extremely important for sun safety. There’s a huge variety of sunscreens to add to your summertime skincare regimen.
What are some common ingredients in sunscreen and how do they work?
Sunscreens normally contain two types of ingredients, which are either “active ingredients” or “inactive ingredients.”
Active ingredients: All the good sunscreens contain multiple active ingredients to protect against all kinds of harmful ultraviolet rays. These ingredients are of two main categories: physical blockers and chemical absorbers.
- Physical blockers: The most common physical blockers are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by creating a physical barrier between the skin and UV rays.
- Chemical absorbers: Chemical absorbers like avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate, and octinoxate, absorb UV rays so that our skin can’t absorb them, hence providing sun safety.
Inactive ingredients: Inactive ingredients like lotions, oils, preservatives, emollients, or water help to preserve and hold the formulation together, but it is the active ingredients keeping you safe from the sun’s rays.
What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
Two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the surface of the earth from the sun, namely: UVA and UVB rays.
- UVA rays: These rays have a longer wavelength that can penetrate the thickest layer of skin, called the dermis. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays leads to wrinkles, premature skin aging, and a suppressed immune system. UVA rays make up 95 percent of the UV rays that reach the earth’s surface and might play a role in causing skin cancers too.
- UVB rays: UVB rays do not penetrate as deeply as UVA rays due to their shorter wavelength but they can cause sunburn, and also play the main role in causing skin cancer. They make up to 3 to 5% of the rays that reach the earth.
What do different SPF ratings mean?
The SPF or sun protection factor is the measure of sun safety of the sunscreen. It is listed for every particular sunscreen and reflects the degree of protection it provides against UVB rays. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is generally recommended by dermatologists. It correlates to protection against 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. The highest protection a sunscreen provides is at SPF 50, which blocks 98 percent of UVB rays. Broad-spectrum sunscreen is more advisable as it protects from both UVB and UVA rays.
How and when should I apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a must part of your summertime skincare. Before you go outside, apply your sunscreen to dry skin. Any area of skin not covered by clothing should have sunscreen on it. It should be reapplied every two hours, or more often if sweating is profuse. Apply sunscreen generously to get the full protection of your SPF and make it one of your summer essentials. Mostly, people only apply about 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which is one ounce of sunscreen during application. The step by step guide to using sunscreen is as follows:
- Wash and dry your face
- Apply the sunscreen directly to the skin
- Use a generous amount of sunscreen.
- Properly cover your neck and upper chest along with your face
- Apply excess sunscreen onto the backs of your hands.
Myths and facts about sunscreen
MYTH: A higher SPF number means more sun safety
Fact: The most widely advised SPF number is 30. This protects the skin from almost 97% of the sun’s UV rays. It covers all UV rays that are responsible for the most common types of skin cancer.
Products boasting higher SPFs give you insignificantly higher measures of protection that cannot block out 100% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. So, according to dermatologists you should apply sunscreen with SPF 30 and always reapply every two hours.
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MYTH: All sunscreens protect from all UV rays
Fact: Unless the sunscreen is labeled as broad-spectrum, it does not protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. So, before adding any sunscreen to your summertime skincare, make sure the label says Broad Spectrum to ensure total coverage.
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MYTH: Sunscreen prevents the body from absorbing vitamin D
Fact: Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for human health, and the body makes it through exposure to UV rays. Many people think that sunscreen blocks UV rays so using it all the time would prevent a person from getting the proper levels of vitamin D.
Scientists and dermatologists suggest that just 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure per day can help with the proper amount of vitamin D in the body. Furthermore, UV rays can penetrate through clothing, and hence your body can produce vitamin D effectively.
MYTH: Darker skin tones don't need protection from sunscreen.
Fact: All skin tones need protection from the sun, so all skin tones will benefit from the daily application of sunscreen. Making it a part of your regimen, especially adding it to your summer essentials, can help in preventing skin cancer, hyperpigmentation, and premature aging.
Darker-skinned people have naturally more melanin in their skin, which is known to diffuse UVB rays. But melanin doesn’t protect against UVA rays, and hence the chance of developing skin cancers is just as likely as for people with lighter skin tones.
MYTH: Sunscreen is not needed on cloudy days.
Fact: Even on cloudy days, almost 80% of the sun’s rays can still penetrate and damage your skin. so you cannot go without applying sunscreen even when it is cloudy, rainy, or winter.
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MYTH: Sunscreen never expires.
Fact: Not only does the sunscreen degrade due to the sun when it’s on your skin, but time affects it, even when it’s inside the bottle. Always check the expiration date and go for a fresh sunscreen every year.
Now that you have the facts about sunscreen, you can keep yourself protected from the sun’s harmful rays and enjoy the outdoors safely.