Each year around this time, we start slathering ourselves in sunscreen so we can enjoy the sun’s warm rays without sacrificing our skin’s health. Sunscreen helps protect our skin from the harmful damage that can come with too much sun exposure. This simple ritual of applying sunscreen all over our bodies can help prevent sun spots, premature aging, and, worst of all: skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun. People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater every day will show 24 percent less skin aging than those who don’t use sunscreen regularly at all. Even more startling – one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime.
I don’t know about you, but I love the sunshine and I don’t plan on sacrificing soaking up as much of it as I can this summer or any other summer. But I’m also not willing to sacrifice my health. Thank goodness for sunscreen, am I right? So what makes sunscreen so effective? Which sunscreens do I recommend? Well, I’m glad you asked!
How Does Sunscreen Work, Exactly?
Sunscreen is comprised of inorganic and organic chemicals. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide act as a physical, organic sunblock that reflects UV rays. Those bright white noses in some of your favorite old beach movies? Most likely one of these two chemicals.
Avobenzone and oxybenzone, inorganic chemicals found in many popular sunscreens, don’t deflect the rays but absorb them instead. The UV radiation is absorbed via their chemical bonds, which makes the components of these sunscreens break down and release heat which protects your skin from the sun.
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”. These numbers reflect how well the sunscreen protects against UVB radiation, which causes sunburn and many types of skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and cause premature wrinkling, age spots, and can increase your risk of certain skin cancers. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide deflect both UVA and UVB rays.
Science That Can Save Your Life
While I’m a huge supporter of applying sunscreen daily and protecting your skin at all costs, I know you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t experienced a bad sunburn or two in their lifetime. It’s so important to educate yourself on the science behind those seemingly “harmless” sunburns, however.
While UVB rays don’t penetrate as deeply as UVA, they do cause reactions in the outer layer of your skin that damages your DNA. Most medical professionals and organizations recommend using sunscreen that contains an SPF between 15 and 50. Anything less or more has not been proven to be effective when it comes to absorbing or deflecting harmful rays. There is also no SPF that can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays, so doubling up on SPF numbers won’t do you any better than a 50 will. I personally recommend SPF 30 for daily use.
Want to break down those numbers and what they mean? Well, for example, a sunscreen containing an SPF of 15 prevents your skin from turning red or burning approximately 15 times longer than usual (sans sunscreen), according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). So if you are fair-skinned and typically burn within 10 minutes, an SPF of 15 will prevent burning for about two-and-a-half hours.
In case you think the occasional sunburn is no biggie, think again: experiencing more than five serious sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 increases your risk of melanoma by 80 percent, and nonmelanoma skin cancer by 68 percent. So slather up, everyone! If you’ve got little ones, start the sunscreen ritual early on and they’ll be better protected.
Sunscreen Facts: Lightning Round
Below are some important points to remember about sunscreen from the AAD.
- Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 20 minutes before going outside and reapplied every 1-2 hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
- We may not think about it, but skin cancer can develop on the lips, too. Make a habit of applying lip balm with SPF 30 or higher when you apply your sunscreen!
- Sunscreen products are regulated by the FDA, and there are also several safety regulations for the marketing of all sunscreens. While most sunscreens come with an expiration date, the FDA also requires that all sunscreen products stay effective for three years. Now you can feel more confident when shopping!
- Speaking of safety, the FDA is currently investigating the risks associated with accidental inhalation of spray sunscreens. These are popular for their convenience, especially among families with young children. However, it’s difficult to know if you’ve covered all the sun-exposed areas on your body, which can result in inadequate coverage. At the very least, use a cream or lotion sunscreen on the face.
- Using sunscreen can affect vitamin D production in your body. If you’re concerned that you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, talk to your doctor.
Epicuren Zinc Oxide Sunscreen is an SPF 27 sunscreen that is packed with natural, vegan ingredients that protect skin from UV-related damage like hyperpigmentation and premature aging. With zinc oxide, a natural UV filter that shields the skin from UVA and UVB rays, and flower extracts, this gentle sunscreen protects and hydrates while reducing the appearance of dark spots and evening your skin tone. This is a chemical-free, paraben-free sunscreen that’s recommended for all skin types.
Protect your skin from the sun with 100% Pure Everywhere SPF Body Stick 30 Sunscreen 2.5oz. Powerful zinc and titanium dioxide block harmful UVA and UVB rays as moisturizing Vitamin E, Cocoa Butter and healing Aloe Vera intensely pamper the skin. Calendula flower extract soothes and comforts the skin. Wholesome organic ingredients bathe the skin in healing moisture as zinc and titanium dioxide prevent damage from the suns harmful rays. The safe and convenient roll up stick makes it easy to apply anywhere you need it; It’s even gentle enough for baby’s delicate skin.
This innovative moisturizer provides physical broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection against the harmful rays of the sun while giving you some color and coverage. Infused with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and emollients, Prevention+ Daily Tinted Moisturizer does it all. Antioxidants repair and protect the skin from free radical damage. And let’s not forget that you get a beautiful glow from the tint while protecting your skin from the age-causing effects of the sun.
Dermalogica Skinperfect Primer Serum is a multi-functional skin treatment that works on numerous levels to beautify and enhance the health of your complexion. Erase fine lines and wrinkles, brighten the tone of your skin, and prepare the palette for makeup application with this amazing Dermalogica treatment serum.
Soaking up the sunshine is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially during the warmest months of the year when we’re all so happy to be outside. Keeping your skin healthy and happy is a simple as slathering on a little sunscreen each day for protection and prevention. Find the right sunscreen for your skin type and lifestyle, apply it regularly, be conscientious of how long you’re in the sun, and away you go!
Do you use sunscreen every day? Has this inspired you to become more proactive about your sun protection? Let us know in the comments!