According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70 and having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. An estimated 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun. People who use sunscreen with an spf of 15 or higher each day show 24% less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily.
Whether you’re worried about cancer or more concerned about the signs of aging skin, it’s clear that sunscreen is a must.
Still have questions? We’ve got you. First of all, always choose non toxic, right? And then check out these 10 Qs and As to learn more the whys and why nots of choosing and wearing sunscreen.
Why should I wear sunscreen year-round?
Although UV rays are stronger in the spring and summer, at higher elevations, and in the middle of the day, the sun is out all day long and UV rays can get through to the ground even on cloudy days and in chillier temperatures. And even if you don’t feel like you’re getting a sunburn, you may be getting sun damage.
Besides a sunburn, what kind of damage can the sun’s rays cause?
There are no safe UV rays. UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer, as well as premature aging of the skin and sun damage that causes wrinkles, leathery skin, dark spots, sagging, and more. (Click here for a variety of skin care products, including options that can help with anti-aging.) UV exposure can also cause eye problems, including the formation of cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens) and inflamed or burned cornea.
What does SPF even mean?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. The SPF number relates to the level of protection against UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn. The American Cancer Society website explains:
“… when applying an SPF 30 sunscreen correctly, you get the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, 1 hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending 2 minutes totally unprotected.”
Higher SPF numbers do provide more protection but not for a longer amount of time. It’s still necessary to reapply. And no sunscreen protects you completely. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out about 97%, SPF 50 about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%.
What does broad spectrum mean?
Broad spectrum sunscreens have been tested and shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
How do I apply sunscreen properly?
No matter what the SPF number, it’s critical that you apply sunscreen generously and often. About 1 ounce of sunscreen (about a shot glass full) should be used to cover arms, legs, neck, and face. Use more for any other areas not covered by clothing. Be sure to apply sunscreen to ears and the back of your neck, and use lip balm with sunscreen, too. Reapply at least every two hours, more when you sweat or swim and then towel off. Physical sunscreens (also known as mineral sunscreens) provide protection immediately, sitting on top of skin and reflecting UV rays before they can cause damage. Chemical sunscreens have to absorb into your skin to be effective and contain toxic chemicals that absorb the UV rays.
Why is a wide-brimmed hat so important?
The American Cancer Society suggests a hat with at least a 2-3-inch brim all around to protect your scalp as well as your eyes, ears, forehead, nose, and neck. Wearing a baseball cap won’t help your neck and ears, which is where skin cancers commonly develop, but a shade cap (basically a baseball cap with about 7 inches of fabric hanging from the sides and back) will be more helpful. A hat made of tightly-woven fabric is also suggested, as opposed to a straw hat.
What kind of sunglasses should I wear?
UV-blocking sunglasses will protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Ideally, your sunglasses should block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. “Cosmetic” sunglasses will only block about 70% of UV rays. To be sure you’re getting full protection, look for an ANSI label that states the glasses meet ANSI UV requirements.
Does clothing with UPF values help?
UPF stands for UV protection factor. Clothing labeled with UPF values can help protect your skin from UV rays. These clothes tend to be made with more tightly woven fabric and may have special coatings.
How can I protect my kids?
Children tend to spend more time outdoors and their skin burns more easily. Protect them just as you would adults and educate them about good sun protection habits. Apply sunscreen to yourself and your kids every time you plan to spend time outdoors, every day of the year. Also, ditch the toy sunglasses and get them real UV-blocking sunglasses instead.
Please check product labels and consult your child’s physician for additional guidance.
Doesn’t sun exposure help our bodies make vitamin D?
Your skin does make vitamin D naturally when you’re in the sun and vitamin D has been shown to have many health benefits, including helping to lower risk for some cancers. However, sun exposure increases skin cancer risk, so it’s better to get vitamin D from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than sun exposure