Most of us either don’t use sunscreen, don’t use enough sunscreen, don’t reapply every two hours or don’t realise that sunscreen expires in 12 months once opened. So here’s a simple to digest article that tells you all you needed and possibly ever wondered about sunscreen and why you should include it into your daily skin care routine.
Lets start off by understanding the difference between UVA and UVB rays. UVA light penetrates into the dermis, which is the thickest layer of skin. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays can lead to photo ageing – think wrinkles and brown spots.
UVB rays on the other hand, are responsible for sunburn, which is the burning of the top layer of skin. UVB rays can lead to skin cancer, and frequent sunburns can cause permanent damage over time.
First thing to understand is that not every sunscreen works the same way. Chemical sunscreens (avobenzone, oxybenzone, etc.) work by absorbing damaging rays, while physical sunscreens (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) reflect them. Some sunscreens combine both chemical and physical ingredients for more complete protection. If your skin is sensitive, it’s best to use a physical sunscreen, which is less likely to cause irritation.
The next thing to bear in mind is that sunscreen should be applied 30 mins before exposure. This is because your skin needs time to absorb it before you expose it to the sun.
Here’s an interesting little factoid, not all sunscreens are effective against damaging UVA and UVB rays. Only sunscreens labeled broad-spectrum protect against both types. Though UVB rays are the ones that give you sunburn, UVA cause skin ageing, and both can increase your risk for skin cancer, so be sure to read the tube before you purchase your next sunscreen.
You can’t get a sunburn through a car window. Glass can block UVB rays, so you won’t get a sunburn while driving with your windows up or seated indoors, but you still need sunscreen to protect against UVA rays.
Even if you use sunscreen correctly, you are not completely protected. Here’s some bad news, no sunscreen can completely block UVA and UVB rays. That’s why it’s important to wear protective clothing and avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest.
Yes, people with tanned skin still need sun protection. All skin tones need daily sun protection. While those with tanned skin possess more melanin and don’t burn as fast as their paler counterparts, they can still develop skin cancer. In fact those with a darker skin tone, are more susceptible to a deadlier kind of melanoma that typically appears on the palms of the hands, nail beds, and soles of the feet, so be sure to apply sunscreen everywhere.
Sorry but SPF 100 is not twice as effective as SPF 50. SPF 50 screens you from 98% of UVB rays while SPF 100 screens 99%, so the advantage is minimal. However, because most people do not apply enough sunscreen (you need a shot glass full for your entire body) or reapply every two-hours, a higher SPF might actually be a better choice.
Sun damage is not only caused by exposure during your childhood and teenage years. In fact, the damage is cumulative. So all those times you popped down to the shops without any protection, or went for a quick dip in the pool without reapplying your sunscreen, well they all add up.
Sunscreen will not prevent you from absorbing vitamin D. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient and the body makes it easily through exposure to UV rays. While sunscreen can in theory block UV rays, most of us don’t apply sunscreen every single day or reapply every two-hours, which means you will still get adequate sunshine to make all the vitamin D your body needs (you need about five-30 mins of sun exposure a day to make all the vitamin D you need)!