It’s summer time and you’re down at the beach or at the pool. Oops! You forgot to buy sunscreen protection. This can be a daunting task figuring out which sunscreen protection is right for you. No problem, I have the solution…don’t go outside…just kidding! Anyway, you go down to the tanning/sunscreen section of the local pharmacy and this is where the fun begins. You ask yourself: What the heck is SPF, UVA, UVB! Let’s break it down…
What is SPF?
SPF is defined as Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF number, the better protection against the sun’s harmful UVB rays. The SPF number lets you know how much longer you can stay out of the sun without burning. So if it takes 10 minutes for a person to burn, an SPF 15 will allow them to stay out in the sun 15 times longer without burning. Most Dermatologist recommend wearing an SPF of 15 or higher for maximum protection.
The label of the sunscreen will indicate the UVA or UVB protection.
UVA rays are responsible for increasing the rapidity of aging and wrinkles in the skin from the sun. Overexposure to UVA rays can also cause skin cancer. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. You’ll want to chose a product that states “UVA/UVB” protection or has “broad spectrum” protectant.
Which should you decide: Waterproof or Water Resistant.
If you are looking for a sunscreen to use while in the water, choose a sunscreen that is “waterproof” or “water resistant”. “Waterproof” sunscreen should provide protection in the water for approximately 60 minutes, while “water resistant” provides only 30 minutes of protection.
So how do those sunscreen products work, and which sunscreen ingredients protect against these two types of UV radiation?
Physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide protect against UVB and UVA. However, zinc oxide blocks more UV radiation than titanium dioxide and, therefore, is the preferred ingredient. Some chemical sunscreens can also block UVA rays. Octocylene is a chemical known as a cinnamate that has both UVA- and UVB-absorbing properties, and the benzophenones (such as avobenzone) can also absorb both UVA and UVB rays.
How should skin sunscreens be applied?
It’s a good general rule to apply a sunscreen very liberally. The sunscreen should be applied about a 20 minutes before going outside to allow time for the sunscreen to soak in and take effect.
So does water or perspiration wash off sunscreen?
Yes. Therefore, sunscreen should be reapplied at least every hour when staying outdoors for a prolonged period and after swimming, bathing, working out, perspiring heavily, or drying off with a towel. Water- and perspiration-resistant sunscreens are available. However, even their protection will not last indefinitely.