The word sunscreen seems to have taken on new meaning since the 1970’s. Back then, people were sporting suntans like they were going out of style. Maybe that’s because they were. While the sunscreens of the early 70’s were meant to allow for a golden glow, the sunscreens of the millennium are meant for much more serious protection. No longer does sunscreen function as a tanning aid, so much as tanning prevention. Nowadays, when you hear the word “sunscreen” you want to hear the term “broad spectrum” in the same breath. So how you can make sure your getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to sunscreen? Read on to find out.
What Are Sunscreens?
Sunscreens are products designed to prevent UVA and UVB radiation from reaching the skin. UVA and UVB rays are the two types of ultraviolet radiation responsible for damaging skin and increasing risk of skin cancer. UVB is the chief cause of sunburns, while UVA penetrates the skin more deeply and causes sagging, wrinkling, and photoaging of the skin. UVAs also boost the carcinogenic effects of the UVB rays and may be able to cause skin cancer on their own.
What Is SPF?
SPF is Sun Protection Factor, or the measure of a product’s ability to prevent UVB damage. For example: Say, it takes you 20 minutes for your skin to redden in the sun. Using an SPF 15 sunscreen will multiply that number by 15, theoretically allowing you about 5 hours in the sun. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do a great job protection against UVB rays.
Problems With SPF
Even though an SPF of 15 should guarantee 5 hr protection, no sunscreen can stay effective without reapplication even two hours. Also, reddening of the skin is a response to UVB rays only, and reveals very little about what damage is being done by UVA rays. In other words, plenty of damage can occur without your skin turning red.
Which Type of Sunscreens Best?
The type of sunscreen you use often depends not the amount of sun exposure you get. For example, many moisturizers and shave lotion feature sunscreens and can provide protection for everyday activities with a moderate amount of time spent in the sun. However, if you’re work conditions or leisure activities require you to spend a log of time outdoors, you should look for a strong, water resistant products, although water resistant sunscreens tend to not be great for everyday use. While their stickier texture makes them less likely to drip into your eyes when playing sports, they also tend to hinder makeup application and need to be reapplied every two hours.
While you should always look for something that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, there are certain ingredients you may also want to find on the ingredient label of your sunscreen. The three active ingredients include PABA derivatives, cinnamites and/or salicylates for UVB absorption, benzophenones for short wavelength UVA protection, and ecamsule, avobenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide for the rest of the UVA spectrum.
General guidelines show that you need about 1 oz, or a hot glass full of sunscreen to get the full SPF. However, studies show that most people only apply a quarter to a half of this amount, which means they’re actual SPF is quite a bit lower than what is advertised on the bottle. Ideally, one day at the beach should mean the use of a quarter to a half of an 8 oz bottle. Give sunscreen about 30 minutes to bind to the skin before going out into the sun. Reapply every two hours or following swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Are you getting your proper amount of sun protection this summer? Let us know how you’re keeping your skin safe form UVAs and UVBs.