Sun-kissed skin is often lauded as a sign of health, but that bronze glow actually indicates skin damage. It puts you at risk for a host of problems, from early aging to serious skin cancers. And even if you have the best intentions, it’s easy to damage your skin if you choose the wrong sunscreen or don’t apply it properly.
So what should you do to keep your skin healthy this summer? Following are seven facts to know.
Your skin’s health is at risk from two types of UV light: UVA and UVB. UVA rays increase the risk of wrinkling and age spots, while UVB rays cause tans and burns. Exposure to both kinds of light increases your risk of skin tumours, including cancer. To best protect your skin, choose a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum sunscreen. These block both UVA and UVB rays.
It’s best to use sunscreen year-round, as sun exposure damages your skin even on cloudy or cold days — but it’s particularly important to be vigilant in the summer, when the sun’s harmful UV rays are strongest and you’re more likely to spend long hours outdoors.
A high SPF sunscreen isn’t necessarily better, particularly if it lures you into thinking you’re safe from the sun. SPF, or sun protection factor, tells you how well a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays. (There is no numerical measurement for protection from UVA rays.) But the highest SPF sunscreens protect only marginally better than their low SPF counterparts. For example, an SPF 15 product blocks about 94 per cent of harmful rays, while an SPF 30 product blocks 97 per cent, according to WebMD. Nothing blocks 100 per cent of the sun’s rays. Most experts say an SPF 30 sunscreen is sufficient for most people, although you might want something more if you are very fair or take medications that make you prone to burning easily.
To ensure maximum protection, apply your sunscreen generously using the package directions. It doesn’t matter whether you use a lotion, spray, stick, or so on; what matters is whether you apply it properly. In general, you should use about one ounce of sunscreen — about a shot glass worth — for total-body coverage. You’ll need to reapply most sunscreens every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Remember that no sunscreen is waterproof. Some sunscreens are water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, but all of them wash away eventually.
If you have sensitive skin or are worried about exposure to chemicals, consider avoiding sunscreens with ingredients like PABA, dioxybenzone, oxybenzone or sulisobenzone, the experts at WebMD advise. Instead, look for products with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Also, keep in mind that additives like alcohol and fragrances can irritate skin.
Finally, remember that sunscreen can only do so much. It’s equally as important to take precautions to avoid exposure, like staying indoors during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), blocking rays with long-sleeved clothing and a hat, and skipping tanning beds.
If you follow these simple tips, you can safely enjoy the summer sun — with healthy, protected skin.