Benefits of Sunscreen: Why Use SPF Every Day
What is the most effective strategy to protect your skin from sun damage? Keeping away from the sun. On the other hand, avoiding the sun is a terrible way to spend your time, particularly because the sun's rays are largely responsible for lifting your mood.
So, what is the best thing we have to protect our skin's surface and the various layers beneath it? Sunscreen. Not just any sunscreen, but you also need to use an appropriate sunscreen that will protect your skin from the sun and other environmental aggressors.
To understand what makes a sunscreen effective, let’s first break down some of the terms used to describe it.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor.” It’s a numerical estimate of how well a product protects your skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which is why a number is used to represent the SPF.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, measures how much solar energy is required to cause a sunburn when you’re wearing sunscreen compared with unprotected skin. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30, when used as directed, prevents 97 percent of UVB rays from reaching your skin. SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. It’s important to remember that while higher SPFs offer more protection, they don’t last any longer than lower numbers, so you need to reapply them just as often.
The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends using an SPF of 30 at the very least.
Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays as well as ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.
While UVB rays are more closely linked to causing skin cancer, UVA rays can still damage your skin and penetrate deep into your skin’s layers to accelerate wrinkles. That’s why a broad-spectrum sunscreen is a better bet for sun protection.
Sunblock is a term used to describe products that protect from UV rays by sitting on top of your skin, as opposed to being absorbed. Most sun protection products contain a mix of sunscreen and sunblock ingredients.
What is UVA, UVB & UVC Rays?
The sun emits different types of light rays, two of which are primarily responsible for damaging your skin: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).
Accounting for about 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, UVA has a relatively long wavelength that can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. UVA rays, which can get through glass, are more insidious because they affect your skin beneath the surface even when you can’t feel it burning.
Responsible for immediate tanning, it also contributes to skin wrinkling and aging, and the development of skin cancers.
UVB rays are shorter and can’t penetrate glass, but they’re the ones that cause sunburns. Partially blocked by the atmosphere, medium wavelength UVB is unable to penetrate deeper than the superficial layers of skin.
UVB is responsible for delayed sun tanning and burning. It also can enhance skin aging and promote skin cancer development.
Short wavelength ultraviolet C (UVC) is totally blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. It isn’t a concern with sun exposure. It can, however, be dangerous with exposure to an artificial radiation source.
Effective sunscreens block both UVA and UVB rays
Now that we have some definitions out of the way, understanding what makes a sunscreen effective will hopefully make more sense.
Effective sunscreens and sunblocks reflect or scatter both harmful UVA and UVB rays so that they can’t penetrate your skin.
But here’s the thing about sunscreens that you make yourself with plant-based ingredients like red raspberry seed oil: While they may protect from some UV rays, they don’t contain a powerful UV filter.
Without the filter of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or another chemical ingredient that’s proven to scatter or reflect UV rays, no sunscreen you make will work to protect your skin.
That’s why the FDA updated their requirements for sunscreen products. In order to be considered Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective (GRASE), sunscreen products need to include titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Physical (inorganic) sunscreen
There are only two inorganic sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It’s been thought that inorganic sunscreens create a protective barrier on the surface of your skin that reflects and scatters UV rays away from your body. However, recent research suggests that inorganic sunscreens actually protect skin by absorbing up to 95 percent of the rays.
Chemical (organic) sunscreen
All other active ingredients that aren’t zinc or titanium are considered chemical sunscreens ingredients. Chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin like lotion instead of forming a barrier on top of the skin. These active ingredients “cause a chemical reaction that converts the UV light into heat so that it can’t harm the skin,”.
Reasons to use sun protection
UV radiation from the sun is the most serious threat for skin cancer.
Sunburn is damage to skin cells and blood vessels from the sun’s UV radiation. Repeated damage results in weakened skin that easily bruises.
A 2013 study of Caucasian women concluded that UV exposure may be responsible for 80 percent of visible facial aging signs. Signs of visible aging to your skin may include wrinkles, reduced elasticity, pigmentation, and degradation of texture.
When to apply Sun Screen
Even if you’re not spending the afternoon at outside, you’re still guaranteed to come into contact with UV rays through the window or by peeking outside. Studies show that daily use of sunscreen can significantly lower your risk of skin cancer and signs of skin aging such as wrinkles, hyper pigmentation, and dark spots.
Reapplication reminders: Always reapply sunscreen. Aim for every 2 hours if you’re outside. What you initially put on can move or shift throughout the day. It also takes about 20 minutes for sunscreen to work.
Other ways to protect from sun
Staying out of the sun is the best way to protect yourself, though this can be hard to do.
Here a few steps beyond wearing sunscreen and sunblock you can take to protect yourself:
Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the UV rays are the strongest.
Wear sunglasses that filter UV light.
Wear protective clothing, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a wide-brimmed hat.