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Sunscreen protection

Sunscreen protection

shereeBy Sheree Epstein

 

It’s that time of the year again… Christmas, holidays, festive season, beach and the SUN!

We all know that not wearing a protective sunscreen can be seriously detrimental on the skin. Not only do we need to wear protective sunscreen whilst we are on holiday at the coast and constantly in the sun, but it is also important to wear sunscreen on the skin everyday, all year round.

A mistake that most people make and completely misunderstand is that they don’t need to regularly wear sunscreen as they are always inside or they work inside at a desk all day. FALSE. You are exposed to the sun as soon as you step outside. Driving in a car, walking outside for a few minutes or whether you may be sitting next to a window where sun is streaming in – you are fully exposed to the sun and it is causing harm to your skin if you have not applied your sunscreen. UVA rays are constantly present, no matter the season or the weather. They are so powerful that they also penetrate some clothing and even glass. So, when was the last time you applied sunscreen before getting behind the wheel?

Another common myth is people always assume if it’s cold or cloudy outside, you don’t need sunscreen. This is not true. Up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. This misperception often leads to the most serious sunburns, because people spend all day outdoors with no protection from the sun.

What are Sunscreens?

Sunscreens are products combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from reaching the skin. Two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB, cause damage to the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against UVA and UVB.

 What are UVA and UVB?

Ultraviolet radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer wave UV ray that causes lasting skin damage, skin aging, and can cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburns, skin damage, and can also cause skin cancer.

 What is SPF?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB.

If you follow some of these important guidelines below you can still enjoy the outdoors all year round while staying protected from both UVA and UVB:

  • Make use of shaded areas, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. (These are times when the sun is at its strongest.)
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen to your entire body before going outside. Sunscreen doesn’t last forever, so re-apply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician / dermatologist every year for a professional skin examination.

There are those people who think the higher the SPF the more protection it will give you on your skin and there are those who will not use a high SPF because they think it will not give them a tan. It is in fact true that high SPF sunscreens aren’t always necessary. The lighter your skin tone, the higher the SPF should be as usually they are the ones who’s skins will burn faster and turn red quicker than the more darker, olive skin tones, which is best to use the lower SPF sunscreens.

Your skin will get a tan even when using sunscreen, as long as you find the right SPF for your specific skin tone. If you don’t burn easily you can use a lower SPF on the skin. Using sunscreen won’t leave your skin looking white, it will simply protect it and block the rays that are harmful to your skin.

Booking regular appointments with a GP or a dermatologist is a very wise idea, especially if you over indulged in the sun in your younger life. Having your skin checked by a professional is the best way to ensure sun damage is monitored and, if necessary, acted on.

It’s simple – avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest, seek the shade, wear a hat, and most importantly for beautiful, wrinkle and cancer free skin, wear sunscreen.