Which Sunscreen Should One Use?

Sunscreen is an essential way of protecting the skin against the sun’s harmful rays. A basic understanding of UVA and UVB light helps in a better understanding of sunscreen. These are two different forms of ultraviolet (UV) light that affect the skin after exposure.

  1. UVA light has a longer wave that penetrates the thickest layer of skin, called the dermis. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays can lead to skin ageing, wrinkles, and a suppressed immune system.

  2. UVB rays have a shorter wave and are most responsible for sunburn, which is the burning of the top layer of skin. UVB rays can play a crucial role in developing skin cancer, and frequent sunburns may cause permanent damage over time.

A sunscreen product’s label includes a sun protection factor (SPF) number which indicates the level of protection from UVB rays. It also states if it can provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA radiation.

What Is Sun Protection Factor (SPF)?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a number that determines how much protection it can offer against UVB light.

A product with a higher SPF number provides greater protection. All products sold usually show this value and also if sunscreen has passed a broad-spectrum test or not.

FDA recommends the use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or above, combined with other measures (wearing sunglasses, avoiding the midday sun), to prevent skin cancer.

Protection levels are also expressed as follows:

  1. Low protection: SPF <15

  2. Medium protection: SPF 15 to 29

  3. High protection: SPF 30 to 49

  4. Very high protection: SPF >50

The level of UVA protection increases in proportion with the SPF value that indicates protection from UVB. No product can claim as broad-spectrum if it has an SPF of under 15.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are known to block UVA rays in the same proportions that SPF blocks UVB.

Tips For Using Sunscreen

  1. FDA advises people to use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or above and which offers broad-spectrum protection.

  2. Apply sunscreen for around 15 minutes before going out into the sun and reapply every 2 hours. It should be reapplied every 40 minutes in case of water, or more often if the instructions say so.

  3. One ounce of sunscreen which is equivalent to a shot glass is considered a suitable amount for a single application for the average body size

  4. Uniformity of the sunscreen applied to play a significant role in protection as few parts of the body rub or sweat more than others

  5. No sunscreen can offer whole-day protection or is completely waterproof.

  6. Sunscreen should always be accompanied by clothing, sunglasses, to reduce skin exposure to UV light.

  7. Activities such as swimming, skiing, and other high-altitude activities, or those with increase sweating increase the need for more frequent application.

Myths and Facts about Sunscreen

There are some myths and misconceptions about sunscreens that people should be aware of before using them.

  1. Myth: Sunscreen is not always necessary when it isn’t too sunny.

  2. Fact: Anytime the body is exposed to light from the sun, it is exposed to UV rays, even if it is a cloudy day.

  3. MythSunscreen will prevent the body from absorbing vitamin D

  4. Fact: Using sunscreen 100% of the time would prevent a person from getting the proper levels of vitamin D. However just 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure per day can create an adequate amount of vitamin D in the body as sunlight can penetrate clothing and also sunscreens lose their effectiveness over time.

  5. MythPeople with dark skin do not need sunscreen

  6. Fact: Melanin acts as a diffuser for UVB rays and may protect against sunburns, to some extent. Melanin does not block UVA damage and can lead to premature skin ageing and wrinkles. People with darker skin should also use a full spectrum sunscreen.

  7. MythMakeup is enough to protect the face

  8. Fact:  Makeup provides a little protection from the sun and is not a replacement for a good sunscreen.

  9. MythOne application of sunscreen lasts all-day

  10. Fact: People should apply sunscreen every 2 to 4 hours, at least.

  11. MythSunscreen is waterproof

  12. Fact: No sunscreen product is 100% waterproof. We need to reapply water-resistant sunscreens after water exposure. Sunscreen needs to settle on the skin for at least 10 to 15 minutes before going in the water.

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