Summer’s here! After this past winter, most of us will spend as much time outside enjoying that beautiful sunlight as possible. But, let’s not forget the sunscreen…ultra important. Even when you go out to run a quick errand or a 15 minute jog around the block.
Most people understand that sunscreen protects our skin from UV radiation. And while it’s important to get that vitamin D, it’s equally important to protect our skin from burning. Lotion, ointment, gel, or spray, choose the one that works best for you.
The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is indicated by numbers on the sunscreen. 15, 30, or 50 indicates just how much sunburn protection your sunscreen provides. SPF is related to just how MUCH sun exposure you get, not how LONG you’re exposed. The only problem with SPF numbers is that they only indicate how much protection you can expect to get from ultraviolet B rays (UVB) rather than ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. And yes, UVA rays can contribute to skin cancer.
UVA and UVB rays both penetrate through the atmosphere and will affect exposed skin. Too much exposure to either type of ultraviolet rays will contribute to the development of wrinkles, age spots, eye damage such as cataracts, and a variety of skin cancers from squamous cell carcinoma to melanoma. Most people have a cumulative exposure of UVA rays over the course of a lifetime to be concerned. UVA penetrates the skin deeper than UVB and damages the various layers of our skin.
UVB rays are mainly responsible for sunburn, skin reddening, and while damaging, most of the damage is on the more superficial layers of the skin. It does contribute to a variety of skin cancers as well, so neither type of ultraviolet radiation exposure should be seen as benign. The worst of the UVB rays are strongest between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM from April through October. But, for those of you at high altitudes, you need to consider using sunscreen even during the winter. Plenty of winter skiers have gotten significant sunburns.
For the maximum benefit, look for sunscreens that contain protection from both UVA and UVB rays. And be sure to understand just how much protection you’ll be getting. All too often, people err on the side of too little sunscreen rather than too much.
Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside for the greatest effectiveness. And every two hours, or sooner if you begin to turn pink, reapply that sunscreen.
Everyone over 6 months of age should use a sunscreen regularly unless they and their doctors decide it would be better to protect the skin in other ways.
SUNSCREEN SKIN PROTECTION FOR SUMMER