Choosing the Right Sun Screen for you
Which Sunscreen would you choose? The one which offers high SPF or the one that claims UVA protection or the one which promises UVB protection also? Do you read the label to check the ingredients in your product of choice?
The recent brouhaha about skin cancer and safe sun practices has fuelled great demand for sunscreen applications. Marketers are quick to lap up the opportunity. Now you have an array of sunscreen solutions to pick from, each one claiming that it is better than the rest. Read the 5-bullets below to become an expert in choosing and using a sunscreen product.
1.?á?á?á?á?á Ultraviolet Radiation (UV Rays) and Sunscreens
Ultraviolet radiation is the part of the sun rays that damages the DNA of your skin upon contact. These rays can cause skin tanning, ageing, wrinkling or even skin cancer.
A sunscreen application simply absorbs or deflects these UV Rays and thus protects your skin.
Therefore, is Sun the culprit? Do we have to do away with sunrays altogether? By all measures, the answer is ‘No’! Sunlight sustains life and is essential. It is also a great source of Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones and other vital functions of our bodies. But the changing environmental factors have made us more vulnerable to its harmful UV rays. For instance, the ozone layer in the atmosphere has become considerably thinner now, allowing more ultraviolet rays to pass through. By using a sun screen appropriately, we can minimize risks of skin cancer, or aging or wrinkling of the skin.
2.?á?á?á?á?á UVA and UVB– What do they mean?
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has three components - A,B and C, differing simply on the?á basis of wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the more dangerous the radiation is.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á Most of the radiation reaching the earth is the longest-wavelength UVA (Ultraviolet A). This penetrates the deeper layers of the skin, causing tanning, wrinkles and early aging of the skin.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á The medium-wavelength UVB (Ultraviolet B) penetrates only the superficial layers of skin, but is more damaging.?áThese UVB rays cause sunburn and the majority of skin cancers. This is why UVA are casually referred to as the ‘aging’ rays and UVB, the ‘burning’ rays.?á
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á UVC rays have the shortest wavelength. However, the earth’s outer atmosphere absorbs all of the UVC rays. They do not reach or affect us.
3.?á?á?á?á?á SPF (Sun Protection Factor)– What does that mean?
SPF or Sun Protection Factor takes into account the number of minutes the sunscreen would protect your skin from sunburn.
For example, if your bare skin burns after 20 minutes of sun exposure, a sunscreen of SPF 15 protects it for 15 times more. Therefore, you may protect your skin from sunburn for (20 multiplied by 15) 300 minutes or five hours by wearing a sunscreen of SPF I5.
You can show an equation here.
SPF (20) * Wearing Time (15) = Total Protection Time (300).
But do not take the SPF values too literally. They do not take into account how much you sweat or how hot the sun is at that particular time. If you perspire more, the sunscreen wears off more quickly. While a higher SPF sounds better, it does not necessarily protect your skin better. The sun’s UV radiation intensity at that time of the day and your individual perspiration levels affect the efficiency of sunscreen, whether SPF is high or low.
4.?á?á?á?á?á Choosing the right Sunscreen for you
Now that you understand the background of UV rays, UVA, UVB and SPF – how do you use this information to pick a sunscreen that is good for you? These three bullets will tell you how.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á ?á?á 1. Always choose a sunscreen that has a broad spectrum range of UV protection against both UVA and UVB rays. This information is provided on the label of the product. Make sure that you read and understand what is written there.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á 2. If your skin is of sensitive type, look for traditional ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in sunscreens. Avoid the newer oxybenzone and paraaminobenzoic acid (PABA) products. Reference 1 provides a list of the dangers of oxybenzone on sensitive skin.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á 3. Avoid using PABA sunscreens on children. Research shows that is absorbed through the skin and causes undesirable side effects in kids.
·?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á?á An SPF of fifteen to thirty is good enough. SPF values of fifty or more may not provide significantly higher protection. Just make sure to reapply based on how much you sweat.
5.?á?á?á?á?á When to use a Sunscreen?
The straight forward answer is that every time you expose your skin, you need to wear sunscreen. However, you must understand a couple of important points.
-?á UV rays pass through clouds. Therefore do not skip using sunscreen on a cloudy day.
-?á UV rays also pass through glass. Therefore, use a sunscreen even when you are indoors, but in a place where sun rays can contact you through glass windows. You should also use sunscreen if you are going to drive for a long time, exposing yourself to the sun.
- Ideally, apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every couple of hours if you swim, run or do any activity outdoors that causes you to perspire more.