Even though the summer may be winding down, it is not over yet. It is important to remember to use sunscreen all year long. With many outside activities under the sun and natural elements every day, it is important to understand the protection sunscreen offers the skin.
During the summer months, the sun is out longer, is stronger, and we often spend more time outdoors. Choosing the right sunscreen is important to go along with daily activity. Sunscreen does not only help against burns but also to help reduce the signs of aging skin and chances of developing skin cancer, discussed last month.
Not all sunscreens are made the same. Just like comparing food items, it is important to compare and read the labels on sunscreen. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreen, requiring certain guidelines to be followed when produced, it is vital to know these few facts:
- If labeled “Broad Spectrum Protection”, the lotion should protect against both UVA and UVB. UVB rays often cause sunburns and skin cancers, while UVA contributes to premature aging and skin cancer. Only products that pass testing can be labeled “broad spectrum.”
- Sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher help fight against UVB rays. The higher the SPF the more protection, but only to a certain point. No sunscreen can protect completely, not even SPF 100, which is only 99% effective. The lower the SPF number, the less protection the sunscreen offers. Sunscreen with an SPF 15 or below does not protect against skin cancer or aging, only against sunburn.
- No sunscreen is waterproof and only lasts for a finite amount of time, typically 40 to 80 minutes, while swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours or more, depending on the activity. More often if swimming or sweating. Lotion will rub off onto clothes or towels, so it is important to reapply especially when out in direct sunlight for extended periods.
In addition to sunscreen, it is important to cover up with light clothes and a hat to help avoid excessive burning and sun damage. Some clothing lines even offer sun protection built into their clothing to help protect from the sunrays. The sun is strongest during the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM. If possible, seek shade when possible during those peak sun hours to avoid the harmful sun rays.
To learn more about sunscreen, take a Sun Safety IQ quiz from the American Cancer Society. Click here.