UV rays are now stronger than ever and can cause many skin conditions, skin damage and cancer. Protect your skin from aging and reduce your risk of melanoma with these ten tips for buying and using sunscreen:
The term SPF (for sun protection factor) only refers to the protection the sunscreen offers from UVB radiation, the rays that cause sunburn. However, most photoaging results from UVA rays, and both types contribute to skin cancer. Be sure to choose a product that blocks UVA and UVB.
SPF refers mainly to the amount of UVB protection a sunscreen offers. An SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97 percent. Despite these advantages, there are potential downsides to using products with very high SPFs.
First, above SPF 50 (which blocks an estimated 98 percent of UVB rays), the increase in UVA protection is minimal. Individuals applying high-SPF sunscreens may not burn (UVB is the chief cause of sunburn), but without UVA-screening ingredients they can still receive large amounts of skin-damaging radiation. To avoid such a scenario, regulatory bodies in Europe and Australia have adopted UVA testing guidelines and measurement standards, and capped the SPF of sunscreens at 50+.
When shopping for sunscreen try looking for products with SPFs no lower than 30 and no higher than 50.
When you find a sunscreen you like, the most critical thing you can do to maximize your protection is to apply it often and in adequate quantities. You need a shot glass full to cover your whole body. Skimping reduces the amount of protection you receive.
It’s also important to know that one application in the morning doesn’t mean you’re protected all day. Sweating, swimming, and friction all make sunscreen less effective, as does exposure to sunlight. Even if you are using the best SPFs, it’s important to reapply about every two hours when you are outside.
If you find the idea of reapplying sunblock throughout the day a hassle, try a mineral makeup such as Jane Iredale's PurePressed Powder. Dusting this Skin-Cancer-Foundation-Approved powder on your face and neck is a quick and easy way to reapply the physical sunscreen you need throughout the day.
SPF is not cumulative. Applying one SPF 15 sunscreen and another SPF 20 sunscreen may give you slightly better coverage, but it does not add up to SPF 35.You only get the ultraviolet blocking benefit of the highest single SPF product you use. Also, don’t assume that your clothes provide adequate protection for your body. While it’s always a good idea to cover up when you’ll be in the sun, a white cotton T-shirt only provides an approximate SPF 5. Darker colored or tightly woven fabrics provide much more protection, as do some specially treated UV protective clothing.
To be effective, chemical sunscreens need to be rubbed into skin 20 minutes before sun exposure. They do a pretty good job at blocking UV light, but they actually get used up as the sun shines on them. In fact, some sunscreens lose as much as 90% of their effectiveness in just an hour, so they need to be reapplied often. This is not the case with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the two mineral, or physical, sunscreens. These two work very differently – they sit on the surface of the skin and physically block UV light.
Chemical sunscreens don’t sit on the surface of the skin – they soak into it and quickly find their way into the bloodstream. They scatter all over the body without being detoxified by the liver and can be detected in blood, urine, and breast milk for up to two days after a single application. That would be just fine if they were uniformly safe – but they’re not.
Titanium dioxide is noncomedogenic, meaning it does not contain oil that can clog the skin's pores. In addition to its sun-fighting properties, zinc oxide is known for its noncomedogenic and antimicrobial properties. In terms of effectiveness, titanium dioxide is effective at blocking ultraviolet-B and short-wave ultraviolet-A rays, but it is less effective than zinc dioxide at blocking long ultraviolet-A rays. Zinc oxide's ability to block different types of rays makes it one of the most effective sun protection products on the market at fighting the sun's rays. However, zinc oxide often is combined with additional ultraviolet-B blockers to provide the most complete broad-spectrum sunscreen.
UV rays are just as harmful during the winter as they are in the summertime… even if you spend your days working indoors, hidden from the sunshine. UVA rays penetrate window glass, which means you are exposed during your commute and if your office is filled with natural light. UV rays are especially harmful in snowy conditions since rays are strengthened due to the reflective nature of snow. The same goes for cloudy days. So lather up!
Lips have almost no melanin (the color is derived from tiny blood vessels beneath the skin) and so it's up to you to protect them. If you don't regularly wear lipstick, get in the habit of using a colorless lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. If lipstick is part of your makeup regimen, avoid the super-shiny, high-gloss lipsticks with little pigmentation. These act like baby oil for the lips, directing damaging UV rays right to the area you're trying to protect. An opaque lipstick will provide better protection. Try to find one you like with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. If you're wedded to the wet look, apply the colored lipstick first, then top with a gloss for shine.
Photoaging is a process of aging caused by UVA and UVB exposure. Major symptoms of photoaging include spider veins on the face or neck, loss of color and fullness in lips and wrinkle formations on the face, neck, ears, hands or chest. No thank you! (Note: You may want to think twice about those hands on the sunny steering wheel too because hands and necks show the symptoms of photoaging the most.) Since even the slightest bits of exposure add up quickly, it’s important to protect any uncovered skin with a broad spectrum UVA and UVB lotion with a minimum SPF of 15.
Many makeup brands claim to have an SPF rating, but few deliver since most people on apply a fraction of what is necessary to achieve the SPF protection they seek. When shopping for makeup, look for those formulated with titanium oxide and zinc oxide, which will offer you instant, broad spectrum, chemical free sun protection. According to the skin cancer foundation, "the benefits of powder are twofold: The tiny pigmented talc particles it contains provide a certain amount of protection on their own, and applying a layer of powder will help both your sunscreen and your moisturizer stay put through the day. They also have a Very Water Resistant rating." The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends PurePressed Base, Amazing Base, Powder-Me-Spf, Dream Tint and LipDrink as effective UV sun protection.
In addition to an SPF of 30+, your sunscreen should include some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, ecamsule, and oxybenzone. Sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection may be labeled multi spectrum, broad spectrum, or UVA/UVB protection.