You’ve got your beach towel, the bikini body you’ve worked for all winter, and a cooler filled with snacks – you’re ready for the beach! But hold up! Did you remember your sunscreen?
During the summer months, the importance of sunscreen cannot be understated, as it helps keep ultraviolet rays – UVA and UVB – from damaging the skin. UVB is responsible for sunburn, while UVA has more long-term damaging effects, like wrinkling and premature aging.
If you’ve ever wondered what the SPF number on your sunscreen bottle means, it stands for Sun Protection Factor. These SPF ratings start at 2 and can reach as high as 70. They measure a sunscreen’s effect against UVB rays and the amount of time you can be in the sun before burning. If, for example, you burn after ten minutes of sun exposure without any sunscreen, an SPF of 15 will allow you to stay in the sun for up to 150 minutes without burning. So, the higher the SPF number, the more sunburn protection the sunscreen provides.
Skin damage from sunlight builds up with continued exposure, regardless of whether or not sunburn occurs. According to the Melanoma Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point during their lifetime, which makes this the second most common cancer for women in their twenties.
And while SPF is indispensable during the summer, it’s equally important year-round. UV rays are just as harmful during the winter as they are in the summertime. If you spend days working indoors, know that UVA rays can penetrate window glass, which means you are exposed during your drive to work and even at your desk, if your office is filled with natural light. And though you might not think it, UV rays are especially harmful on snowy days, since the rays – and potential skin damage from the sun – are multiplied by the reflective nature of the snow.
Dangers of Over Sun-Exposure with No Sunscreen
Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays, as well as related rays such as UVA, UVB, and UVC.
- UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most important cause of premature aging of the skin. In addition, UVA rays are responsible for photosensitivity reactions and also contribute to skin cancer.
- UVB rays are most intense from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and are most responsible for sunburn and skin cancer development.
- UVC rays are filtered by the ozone layer and do not reach the earth’s surface.
Increased exposure to UV radiation occurs nearer the equator, during summer months, at higher elevation and during peak daylight. Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases exposure, a particularly important consideration for beach activities, skiing, swimming, and sailing. You can limit your dangerous exposure and help prevent burns and long-term damage by covering exposed areas when possible, wearing hats, and using the wide variety of sunscreens available in most stores and pharmacies.
When To Apply Sunscreen?
- Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun (for best results) so that it can be absorbed by the skin and less likely to wash off when you perspire.
- Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
- Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors, and wear hats and protective clothing.
How to Apply Sunscreen?
- Shake well before use to mix particles that might be clumped up in the container. Consider using the new spray-on or stick types of sunscreen.
- Be sure to apply enough sunscreen. As a rule of thumb, use an ounce (a handful) to cover your entire body.
- Use on all parts of your skin exposed to the sun, including the ears, back, shoulders, and the back of the knees and legs.
- Apply thickly and thoroughly.
- Be careful when applying sunscreen around the eyes.