The benefits of wearing sunscreen outdoors are numerous, especially during the summer. The primary advantage sunscreen offers is that it protects us from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays can damage our skin, and exposure to them can lead to sunburns and an increased risk of skin cancer. When deciding which sunscreen is best for you throughout the year, be sure to pay attention to three main factors: the product’s SPF number, its UVA protection, and its ingredients.
- SPF (Sun Protection Factor): What consumers should know is that the SPF determines how well the sunscreen will protect the skin against UVB rays, which are just one type of sunburn-inducing and skin cancer-causing type of rays. It is recommended that everyone applies sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 – and that it is reapplied every two hours while outdoors or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. To get the appropriate protection that SPF 30 offers, you need to apply at least a shot glass amount to cover all sun-exposed areas. SPF that is in make-up is not nearly enough protection, so always use sunscreen as well!
- UVA protection: UVA rays also can result in more permanent damage to the body, such as wrinkles and melanoma. Melanoma is the most common and most threatening type of skin cancer in the United States, so using a sunscreen that contains UVA protection is imperative. UVA rays also can cause other signs of premature aging such as dark spots and other DNA damage, so choose a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection, usually with the term “broad-spectrum” written on the bottle.
- Ingredients: There are different types of ingredients within sunscreens that can offer protection. Avobenzone and oxybenzone are two types of ingredients considered to be “chemical blockers.” In some people, these ingredients may be slightly irritating to the skin, so instead a “physical blocker” should be tried. Examples of “physical blockers” are titanium oxide and zinc oxide, which are usually gentler on the skin and often found in sunscreens for infants.
The skin, while tough and resilient, is also susceptible to permanent and life-threatening damage when harmed, but applying the right sunscreen with the right ingredients decreases the risks. Taking care of your body also means taking care of your skin. Incorporating a good sunscreen into your daily routine will help ensure that your skin is feeling and looking its best.