Be Sunscreen Savvy!

Summer is FINALLY here and the sun has blessed us with its presence! Before you jump into all those outdoor activities you will need to be sure that you are protected. With the hundreds of sunscreens on the market a shopper could easily be confused as to which one will offer the best protection.  Here are a few pointers:

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Find a sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays are the rays that are most responsible for burning and penetrate only the outer most layer of skin. While burns don’t feel too good, UVA rays are the ones you really need to watch out for! UVA rays penetrate much deeper into the skin causing wrinkles, aging, hyper-pigmentation, and worst of all, SKIN CANCER!

So how do you know which sunscreen offers protection from both UVB and UVA rays? Look for a sunscreen that offers “broad spectrum” protection. If you are still unsure check the ingredients.  A product that contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or ecamsule(Mexoryl) will effectively protect you from both types of UV rays.

Next, we have to choose which SPF (sun protection factor) suites our individual needs. SPF is calculated on how long it will take you to burn without sunscreen vs. how long it will take you to burn with sunscreen. For example; if your skin begins to burn after 15 minutes with NO protection, then by using an SPF of 15 it will allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer without burning. The average is approx. 3hrs 45min. However, this alone won’t guarantee sufficient protection from the sun. It is also important to take into consideration the time of day, geographical location, and weather conditions. Don’t let the clouds fool you! If UVA rays can penetrate through a glass window, they can certainly penetrate through a layer of clouds. In addition, SPF only measures the level of protection against UVB rays. There is no scale that can measure the level of protection against UVA rays.  You should also be aware of products marked “waterproof” or “water resistant”. A product marked as “waterproof” will offer sufficient protection for up to 80 minutes in the water. While a “water resistant” product may only last up to 40 minutes.

So now that you have narrowed down which sunscreen will work best for you, let’s discuss proper application. It is a common mistake for people to not use enough sunscreen. If a sunscreen is spread too thin, it will not offer the correct amount of protection. It is recommended that a person should use at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover the entire body for each application. It is also important that it be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, and reapplied every 2 hours or sooner after excessive sweating, swimming, or toweling off.

Then last but not least, limit your exposure time. We all love the sun and it’s good for us in moderation, but too much sun can lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and the scariest of all skin cancer! So play it safe this summer, you’ll be thanking yourself later when you look 20 years younger than all your friends! Happy sunning!

References: MedicineNet.com; Skincancer.org

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