Spending some time outside is good as it helps you get the vitamin D your body needs. But staying under the sun for extended periods without protection can harm your skin and overall health. And this is where sunscreen comes into play! 

Spa estheticians and even dermatologists recommend using sunscreen to prevent sunburn, skin cancer, and early aging. Sunscreen acts as a shield against ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

Two Kinds of UV Radiation 

Everyone knows that spending too much time under the sunlight can be dangerous, but what is it about sunlight that causes skin damage and other health problems? The answer lies in ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

There are two types of UV radiation that we must be aware of: UVA and UVB. Let’s dive deeper into these two kinds of radiation to better understand their differences and what we can do to protect ourselves. 

What is UVA Radiation? 

UVA radiation is the type of radiation that makes up 95% of all UV light from the sun. It has a longer wavelength than UVB rays, meaning that it has more energy and penetrates further into our skin cells. 

This causes cell damage at a deep level, resulting in wrinkles, premature aging, and dark spots on our skin. In addition, UVA radiation also increases our risk for certain types of cancer such as melanoma. 

What is UVB Radiation? 

UVB radiation has a shorter wavelength than UVA rays, meaning they have less energy and don’t penetrate as far into our skin cells. However, even though they are less potent than UVA rays, they still cause significant damage to our skin by damaging DNA molecules and increasing the risk for sunburns and skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

Exposure to UV radiation may lead to skin cancer, premature aging, cataracts, and other serious health problems and one of the ways to protect your skin against it is by wearing sunscreen.  

Look for a sunscreen that delivers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays when making your selection. Apply sunscreen every two hours, after swimming, or after perspiring, and make sure it has an SPF of 30 or higher.

Wearing protective clothing is another great way to shield yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Look for clothing made from tightly woven fabrics that offer good coverage, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats. In addition, dark colors provide more protection than light colors.

Finally, avoid being outdoors from 10 am to 4 pm. If it’s necessary to go outside during these hours, be sure to seek shade under a tree or an umbrella.

What is SPF? Why is it important?

A number on the sunscreen bottles denotes that the SPF level is usually 2-50 SPF. The sun protection factor (SPF) measures how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) B rays. These are the rays that cause sunburn, injure the skin, and can give rise to skin cancer.

The higher the SPF, the more protection a sunscreen provides. For example, an SPF of 15 filters out approximately 93% of UVB rays, an SPF of 30 filters out approximately 97%, and an SPF of 50 filters out approximately 98%. However, no sunscreen can block 100% of UVB rays.

Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher whenever you are outdoors, even on cloudy days. You should also reapply sunscreen every two or more hours after sweating or swimming.

What happens if you never wear sunscreen? 

If you never wear sunscreen, you are at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and other damage to your skin. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause DNA damage, leading to skin cancer. It can also cause wrinkles, age spots, and other changes to your skin.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that by the time they reach age 70, 1 in 5 Americans have skin cancer and it’s most commonly found on arms or legs. Melanoma killed nearly 10 thousand people this year alone!

You can help avert skin cancer by wearing sunscreen daily and avoiding tanning beds. Be sure to check your skin regularly for changes, and see a dermatologist if you notice anything unusual.

What sunscreen should I buy?

When buying sunscreen, look for a product that has an SPF of 30 or higher and provides broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays cause premature aging, while UVB rays cause sunburn.

Consider a sunscreen that is waterproof and/or sweat-resistant. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle, and reapply sunscreen every two hours or more if you perspire a lot or after a water activity. 

The sunscreen game is real and it’s not just about protecting your skin from sunburns. The best protection comes when you find the product that suits well with your skin type and needs. 

When should I apply sunscreen?

You need to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. Reapply one or two hours after exposure to the sun. Be sure to cover all exposed skin, including your face, neck, ears, and hands. You may also need to apply sunscreen to your scalp if you have thinning or no hair.

If you are using a spray sunscreen, hold the can 6-8 inches away from your skin and spray evenly. Then, rub the sunscreen in until it is completely absorbed.

How much sunscreen do I need?

It would be best if you use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. A good rule of thumb is to use one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen for your entire body. Reapply only when necessary! 

When should I see a dermatologist?

If you have concerns about your skin, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist. Dermatologists are skin care experts and can help you find the best ways to protect your skin from the sun.

The SPF level is denoted by a number on the sunscreen bottles, usually in the range of 2-50 SPF. The sun protection factor (SPF) measures how well a sunscreen will guard your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. The higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen will provide. 

However, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays, so taking other measures to protect your skin, such as wearing protective clothing and staying in the shade, is essential.

How Can We Help?

Our professional spa aestheticians here at River District Aesthetics can help you choose the perfect sunscreen for your skin type and provide other tips on protecting your skin from the sun. 

Schedule a free consultation today!