Know how to select and apply a good sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn and other skin damage.
you're like most people, you enjoy spending time outdoors and feeling
the heat of the sun on your skin. But not all the sun's rays are
pleasing. Ultraviolet (UV) light — invisible, but intense rays from the
sun — can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
it's not the only safeguard you need to take, sunscreen is one of the
easiest ways to protect your skin and is a good first line of defense.
Here's how you can get the most protection from your sunscreen.
How do sunscreens work?
absorbs, reflects or scatters UV light. It's divided into three
wavelength bands — ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and
ultraviolet C (UVC). Only UVA and UVB rays reach the earth.
Sunscreens provide either physical or chemical protection from UV light.
form an opaque film that reflects or scatters UV light before it can
penetrate the skin. These sunscreens contain ingredients, such as zinc
oxide and titanium dioxide, which protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Original formulations of physical sunscreens remained white when
applied to the skin. Newer formulations blend more with your skin tone
and are less noticeable.
absorb UV rays before they can cause any damage. They contain one or
more ingredients, such as avobenzone or oxybenzone, which absorb UVA or
UVB rays. For broad protection, chemical sunscreens often contain more
than one ingredient to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. A newer
over-the-counter sunscreen contains mexoryl (Anthelios SX) and offers
protection against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Who should use sunscreen?
you spend time outdoors during daylight hours, you need to use
sunscreen even if you have darker skin pigment, tan easily and can
tolerate longer periods of sun exposure without burning. Regardless of
skin type, the sun's energy penetrates deeply into the skin and damages
DNA of skin cells. This damage may ultimately lead to skin cancer.
are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun, so take
extra steps to protect their skin and to prevent sunburns. Babies
younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight because
their skin is even more fragile. Use sunscreen on an infant only if
you're unable to keep him or her out of the sun and are unable to cover
exposed skin. Use a small amount on uncovered areas, such as on hands or
ears, and check for any skin reactions.
What is an SPF?
sunscreens products include an SPF, which stands for sun protection
factor. The SPF number is a measurement of the amount of UVB protection —
the higher the number, the greater the protection. Currently, there's
no standard rating system that measures UVA protection.
is not an indication of how much time you can spend in the sun. For
example, if you use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 rather than one with an
SPF 15, it doesn't mean you can stay in the sun twice as long. In
reality, an SPF of 15 filters out about 93 percent of the UVB rays; SPF
30 filters about 97 percent of UVB rays. The beneficial effects of
sunscreen decreases over time, so after a few hours the difference
between the two may be even less.
Don't rely on
the SPF factor to decide how long you're safe in the sun. And don't
count on your skin to tell you when you've had too much sun. It may take
up to 24 hours for a sunburn to develop fully.
What reduces the effectiveness of sunscreen?
much protection your sunscreen offers depends on many factors,
including how likely your skin is to burn (your skin type), the amount
and type of sunscreen used, how often the sunscreen is applied, and how
intense the UV rays are.
In addition, many factors can make sunscreen less effective. These include:
Drying or rubbing your skin with a towel
Swimming, showers or other contact with water
What should you look for when buying sunscreen?
Not all sunscreens are the same. Be sure to:
Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
Broad-spectrum products provide protection against both UVA and UVB
radiation. Look on the ingredient labels for oxybenzone, sulisobenzone,
avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Watch for added ingredients that may irritate your skin.
Some sunscreens contain fragrances, preservatives and other ingredients
that cause skin reactions in some people. If you have sensitive skin,
look for sunscreen that doesn't contain potential allergens, such as
fragrances or dyes, and is specifically designed for your type of skin.
Look for sunscreens labeled "water resistant," which offers some
protection against washing off in water or when perspiring heavily.
Sunscreens can no longer be labeled "waterproof" because all sunscreens
wash off to some extent. Other terms that can no longer be used on
sunscreen product labels include "sun block" (no product actually blocks
all UV rays) and "all-day" (no sunscreen lasts all day).
Make sure any product you use actually contains sunscreen.
Many tanning oils and lotions don't. Products that don't contain
sunscreen are required by law to clearly indicate that on the label.
How much sunscreen is necessary, and how often should it be applied?
people use sunscreen too sparingly. A liberal application is 1 ounce
(29 milliliters) — the amount in a shot glass — to cover all exposed
parts of the body. If you have a 4-ounce (118-milliliter) bottle, you'll
be using about one-fourth of it for one application. Be sure to rub the
sunscreen in well.
To maximize protection, apply
sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every
two hours, or sooner as needed.
Is sunscreen enough to protect your skin?
it offers some protection, no sunscreen blocks out all of the UV rays.
Therefore, sunscreen shouldn't replace other protective measures, such
as limiting the time you spend in the sun and covering your skin. For
the most complete sun protection, use all three of these methods:
Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Because the sun's rays are strongest during these hours, try to
schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day. Seek shade
whenever possible. If you're unable to avoid being in the sun, limit the
amount of time you're outdoors during these peak hours.
Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a
broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than does a baseball
cap or golf visor. Also, consider wearing clothing or outdoor gear
specially designed to provide sun protection.
Use sunscreen frequently and liberally.
Apply sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply
about every two hours. Use it even on cloudy or hazy days. UV rays can
penetrate cloud cover.