Now that summertime is here and the sun is coming in hot, it is time to get real about sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen! The skin protection agent that many people love to hate. Also known as sunblock, sunscreen is highly recommended by dermatologists to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays by reducing your overall ultraviolet (UV) exposure thus decreasing your risk of skin cancer, sun damage, and signs of aging. Melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in young adults ( 20 to 39 years old), so whether you love sunscreen or tend to avoid it, finding the right one for you is essential for maintaining healthy skin!
To test your sunscreen knowledge, we’d like to play a game of “Two Truths, One Lie”… Can you guess which one of the following statements is false?
1. Even if it is cloudy, you still need to protect your skin with SPF.
2. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness with sweat and when in water – therefore you must reapply every two hours when spending prolonged time outdoors.
3. It is recommended to wear sunscreen on all exposed skin even in the winter time.
Did you make your guess?
Truth is – these are all FACTS! No matter the weather or time of year, your skin needs protection from the sun. Up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays will make their way to your skin through clouds and environmental factors such as snow, sand and water reflect these rays which increase their intensity. You should also apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure for the best results!
Which SPF do I choose?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number indicated on the packaging of your sunscreen tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays will take to redden your skin if you apply it as directed compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. If you use an SPF 30 product properly, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you did not use any.
SPF 15 is ideal for occasional sun exposure and every day wear like when walking your dog or commuting to work whereas SPF 30 or higher is necessary for extended activity outside like going for a run or a hike, swimming, or working outdoors. Outdoor workers are 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely to develop skin cancer, so slather it on!
Finding the Right Sunscreen for You
Once you determine the right SPF for you, Dermatologists recommend choosing a sunscreen that claims to be “Broad Spectrum”, meaning that it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, as well as water resistant. No sunscreen is waterproof, but when labeled water resistant, they do last longer against sweating and swimming.
With those details in mind, you can then choose a sunscreen for your skin type whether you have dry skin, oily skin, acne-prone skin or sensitive skin.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Well I don’t need sunscreen, I’ve never gotten a sunburn!” It is true that fair-skinned folks are indeed likely to absorb more solar energy than dark-skinned people under the same conditions, but everybody can get skin cancer regardless of your skin color, age, or gender. It is important to know your skin and family history as well as the effects of any medications you may take. Certain medications or skin disorders can increase your photosensitivity no matter your skin type. If you have any doubt about your skin’s sensitivity, we recommend speaking to your Dermatologist. Putting your best skin forward is worth it!
You Missed a Spot!
There’s more to covering up than just your arms and legs! Commonly forgotten yet important areas to protect when applying sunscreen include ears, nose, lips, the back of your neck, hands, the top of your feet, along your hairline and any exposed skin on your head due to balding or thinning hair. These areas tend to burn the fastest and are more prone to developing melanoma since we can’t see them and often forget to protect them.
Other Skin Protection Factors
Sunscreen is not 100% sun proof without taking some extra precautions. In order to best protect your skin, Dermatologists also recommend :
1. Wearing Protective Clothing : Anything from wide brim hats and sunglasses to a light long sleeved shirt and pants can help shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
For those who remember the Slip, Slop, Slap skin cancer awareness campaign from the 80’s, to protect your skin, you have to:
Slip on a shirt,
Slop on your sunscreen,
Slap on a hat!
2. Seeking Shaded Areas : It is especially recommended to stay out of the sun when it is at its strongest between 10AM and 4PM.
3. Avoiding Tanning Beds : Tanning beds emit 15x more UV rays than the sun and can increase your odds of developing melanoma skin cancer by a whopping 75%! If you are aiming for that golden glow, opt for alternative self-tanning products rather than tanning beds.
4. Getting your Vitamin D through foods and vitamins rather than overdoing the sunlight.
Is Sunscreen Toxic?
There is a myth floating around that sunscreen is more toxic than ultraviolet rays, but this is not true. If your skin does react negatively to a certain brand of sunscreen, like any other product, it is best to find something with different ingredients.
As we all know, anything that ends up in the ocean that is not meant to be there poses a threat to our ocean’s wildlife, particularly to our coral reefs. If you are looking for more reef and skin friendly sunscreen variants, we recommend looking for products that do not contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben or butylparaben. These are all ingredients used as preservatives or UV ray absorbents that do more harm than good. Additionally, opting for cream sunscreens rather than aerosol sunscreens is also a great way to avoid spraying inhalable microscopic pollutants into the air as well!
Fun in the Sun
All in all, the safest way to enjoy the sun is by purchasing a water-resistant-broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and applying it to all exposed skin, no matter the weather. For the best results, apply your sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply around every two hours if you are sweating or swimming.
Now that you have a complete arsenal of skin protection tools, you’re ready to get outdoors and have some worry free fun in the sun!
Stay Safe Everyone!