Provided that you should always put sunscreen, how high an SPF should one choose? What is the difference between SPF 50 and SPF 30? What does “broad spectrum” mean? Are all sunscreens equally effective?
No better time to get the answers to these questions than now, during the week of the summer
And hear this out, even if it is not sunny where you are, the UV rays hitting your skin will be
their most intense.
UVA and UVB...
There are two kinds of solar rays: short ones called UVB that cause burning and skin cancer and long ones called UVA that cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
Sun protection factor ratings reflect only the extent of protection against UVB. The higher the rating, the longer one can stay in the sun before burning.
But watch out, SPF ratings are based on a rather huge application of sunscreen, not the amount most of us use, which is usually only 25% the amount applied in manufacturers’ tests. An adult in a bathing suit should apply about three tablespoons of lotion every two hours, a recent research has pointed out.
Three tablespoons, that’s a lot of cream, really a lot...
Also, above an SPF of 30, which can block 97% of UVB (if used in testing amounts), effectiveness increases by only 1 or 2%.
When it comes to UVA (which represents more than 95 percent of solar radiation reaching the earth) it does not figure in SPF ratings. The phrase “broad spectrum” is meant to indicate protection against UVA, but there is no numerical rating for product effectiveness.
Which sun screen should you choose?
Dermatologists suggest choosing only products that are labeled “broad spectrum” and have an SPF rating of 30 to 50. As there is no evidence that anything higher than 50 is any better.
According to my dermatologist, 30 SPF is more than enough, and it’s much more important to constantly reapply the sunscreen rather than buying one with greater SPF.
Also, don’t be fooled by price. A recent Consumer Reports’ test on sunscreens ranked higher no-ad products than big brands that costs 10 times more.
The best advice to prevent UV damage is to stay out of the sun altogether (from 12pm to 3pm) and to cover up with clothing, a hat and umbrella during the rest of the day even if it is cloudy: clouds do not block damaging rays!
Keep in mind that ultraviolet radiation is reflected off sand, water and snow intensifying exposure even if you are protected by an umbrella from above.
Ordinary clothing provides a good sun shield when dry but they do little or no protection when wet.
Caps with a neck flap are especially helpful for sports enthusiasts. And no matter how well covered up you are, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your face, ears, neck and hands.
Apply the sunscreen just before exposure, and reapply it two hours later And even if the label claims the sunscreen is water resistant, be sure to reapply it after swimming or sweating heavily.
Some sun exposure is necessary to maintain a healthful level of vitamin D.
But according to recent studies for light-skinned people, exposing one’s hands, arms, face or back to non burning doses of sunlight for 15 minutes two or three times a week from April to September should result in adequate vitamin D synthesis. People with dark-skinned complexion need longer exposure.
I grew up with a sister who always been super-concerned with sun damages and since I was a little kid she forced me to apply huge amounts of sun screen when we were at the beach. Also, she "instruct" me to avoid sunbathing during midday and to apply generous amounts of after-sun lotion after exposure.
Today I have to thank her for all that brainwashing. Because, even if I have a pretty fair skin complexion I have very few moles on my body and my yearly visits at the dermatologists have been, so far and luckily, a 5 minutes joke.
When I go for my daily run I always (and I mean always) put on - at least 30 minutes - before a huge amount of sun screen with 30 SPF. The risks of premature skin aging are just too real and foreseeable not to take precautions to prevent it from happening.
So, whatever your plans for the summer, don’t be afraid of using sunscreen!
The Iron You