Gearing Up For Summer: Ways to Protect Your Skin From Skin Damage
With warmer weather and summer just around the corner, sun exposure also increases. We see a great deal of skin cancer reconstruction in the office. This can range from small and simple to large and complex. Protect yourself and help prevent skin cancer with sun protection. Exposure to the sun is also one of the most aging things for your skin. Remember there is no such thing as a safe tan, it’s really sun damage!
How do you decide which options are right for you to protect yourself? A combination of items is usually best. May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to gear up to provide sun protection for you and your family.
UV Rays and Sunscreen Ingredients
Years ago, when looking for sun protection, we focused mainly on a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor). The higher the SPF, the better the sun protection. Right? Well, not completely. SPF is related to the blockage of only UVB (ultraviolet B) rays. UVB rays cause sunburn, skin damage and can cause skin cancer. However, these particular rays only penetrate skin on the outermost layer.
Another ultraviolet ray was also proven to increase your risk of skin cancer, ultraviolet A. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the dermis. UVA1 penetrates to 340-400 nm under the surface and UVA2 reaches 320-340 nm under the top layer of skin. As well as contributing to cancer, these rays damage collagen and cells resulting in wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and loss of elasticity.
Selecting a Sunscreen
Sunscreens shield you from UVA/UVB rays in two ways. Physical sunscreen ingredients reflect light away for the skin. Chemical sunscreens work by forming a thin film on the surface of the skin that absorbs the UV radiation before it reaches the skin. When it comes to UV protection, many sunscreens provide a combination of a chemical barrier and a physical reflector. If you have sensitive skin, you will want to stick with a physical sunblock such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Newer formulas such as ClearChoice SportShield have micronized physical sunscreen that is light and isn’t as heavy as what you remember as a child. Physical sunblocks remain photostable longer than most of the chemical ingredients that may degrade.
SPF 15 or higher is recommended in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. The number indicates the factor by which you increase you burn time. For instance, if you would normally burn in 15 minutes, SPF 15 would increase that time by a factor of 15, meaning you could potentially not get sunburned for 225 minutes.However, no matter what SPF level, it is recommended that you reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, especially if you are sweating or wet.
Using Sunscreen Correctly
While choosing a sunscreen is important, actually using it correctly is critical. Here are some tips:
- Use sunscreen daily, whenever you’re out during the day. Remember, the rays can penetrate windows and car windows, so don’t forget sun protection when driving! Whether it is hot and sunny or grey and overcast, dangerous UV rays can still make it through cloud cover.
- Apply 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun to allow for proper drying and absorption time.
- Use generously and don’t forget the easy-to-miss areas like the ears, behind the neck, the feet and even the lips.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often if you are sweating or have been in the water.
Other ways to protect yourself from the sun
Sun protection doesn’t end with sunscreen alone. Here are other precautions you can take to help prevent sun damage.
- Seek shade whenever possible, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Avoid tanning and tanning beds
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat whenever you are outside.
- Wear sun protective clothing and swimwear. There are fabrics available with a UVP (ultraviolet protection) rating. Coolibar and Lands End are some examples, but here are others. Dark colored, tightly woven fabrics provide a bit more protection as well.
I wish everyone a bright, joyful summer. Be sure to ask about the sunscreens we are currently carrying in the office. We are offering a special of 20% off any suncare purchase, so don’t miss it. Lather up!
Sara Klingelberg is the Patient Care Coordinator at Queen City Plastic Surgery. Her background is in nutrition and she enjoys crossfit and spending time with her two boys, who like the EltaMD spray sunscreen. Sara uses Epionce and Prana sunscreens.