Whether you are a sun worshiper or actively working outdoors, it is vitally important to put your sunscreen on because you need to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. But there are some must-knows about sunscreen.
Chances are that you don’t realize how much sun you’re getting. Consider your morning walk or spending hours outside gardening or playing tennis. Some people lay in the sun letting the warmth bake their skin to a beautiful tan.
If I’m being completely honest, I don’t always wear sunscreen and I know it’s bad for my skin. There are so many testimonials and studies that prove the sun damages skin and ages us.
The Importance of Lathering Up
Let’s make some toast. I know that sounds way off topic but stay with me for a moment. When you have soft, pliable bread and pop it into the toaster, you are actually changing the chemistry of the bread. Once it’s toasted (or burnt) you cannot change it back to bread. Now think of your skin as soft, pliable bread and the sun as the giant toaster in the sky.
Too much time in the sun will cause irreversible damage to your skin. Those UVA and UVB rays will cause premature aging, hyper-pigmentation like freckles and “liver spots”, and approximately 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancer comes from the sun. Moreover, there are about 3.5 million new non-melanoma cancer cases per year in the United States.
Now consider that the average active person is exposed to the sun about 200 minutes a day. That boggles the mind, right? Are you surprised that you’re likely in the sun for over 3 hours a day?
Think about it.
Incidental sun exposure comes from your walk from the house to your car, the arm outside of the window as you’re driving or packing the car for a trip. How about checking the mail, walking the dog, or pumping gas? Are your windows protecting you against UVA and UVB rays? Probably not. That corner office with the view or home studio with the window facing east for the best morning light is still exposing you to the sun.
Tanning beds aren’t safer for you either because you’re actually laying on ultraviolet lights. Do I need to say it?
The 101 on SPF
Here is a little 101 on the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that you should know.
All sunscreens protect the same and the SPF has nothing to do with the level of protection. Period.
Sun Protection Factor measures how much UVB protection that product provides for your skin. While higher SPF sunscreen applied liberally can block up to 97% of the sun’s rays, the SPF number is actually a guide for how long you can stay in direct sunlight before you begin to burn.
Let’s do a little math. If you normally burn after 10 minutes of being unprotected in the sun, multiply that number by the SPF rating that you’re using and that determines how long your sunscreen will last. For example: If your skin burns after 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure and you’re wearing SPF 50, you will get approximately 8 hours of sun protection. (10 minutes * 50 SPF = 8.33 hours)
When It’s Too Late
When your skin is pink or red from the sun, it’s already too late. Your skin is damaged and reapplying sunscreen at that point will not protect you until your skin has a chance to heal.
If you’ve ever burned yourself then you know that feeling of the burn long after you’ve tried to cool your skin but it’s still heat sensitive long afterwards. It’s the same concept with sunburn and tanning.
More options to protect yourself against the sun is to stay indoors and away from the windows. That’s not reasonable in most cases so just be aware that if you’re reading a book at your window seat and feel the heat of the sun on your back, you’re getting exposed to the harmful rays.
Be aware of your surroundings. Snow and water reflect the sun’s rays and you can get burned from it.
Dress in long sleeves and floppy hat. Perhaps this is not a good option if you live in tropical temperatures. Bring an umbrella to the stadium, beach, or picnic.
Sunless tanner is a great option to looking good too. Thank goodness we’ve gotten away from the sprays that turn us orange and streaky looking.
As for your sunscreen. Apply liberally. Reapply frequently especially if you are sweating a lot, swimming or toweling off. Get out of the sun if you can and let your skin cool down. Keep beautiful and stay safe. The sun is no joke. Neither is cancer.