Understanding Summer Skin Health

With warmer weather around the corner, that means more time spent outside. And with all this added outdoor time, comes added sun exposure. Sun safety can help make these experiences pleasant, and keep you from having to slather yourself in aloe after it is all said and done. Adopting a few of these sun-protective habits can help you reduce the likelihood of sunburn, skin aging and UV-induced skin cancer. 

How is your skin affected by the sun

The sun emits ultraviolet light in wavelengths, including ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).  Both UVA and UVB rays are known to be associated with damage to skin cells, leading to skin cancer. Sunburn is mainly caused by UVB, while skin aging is caused by UVA.  

Let’s talk Sunscreen

What SPF do I need

Sunburn protection factor (SPF) refers to the measure of protection the sunscreen has against UVB rays before an individual’s skin begins to burn.  The higher the SPF, the slightly higher the level of protection.  For example, an SPF 15 can block 94% of UBV rays, while an SPF 30 can block up to 97%.  Now remember this is only referring to blocking UVB rays.  The environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests an SPF between 30 and 50 offers appropriate protection.  With anything higher than SPF 50, it tends to lead lead us into a false sense of security.  Thinking hey I have SPF 70 on I’m good, often leading to an increased rate of sunburns.  When shopping for sunscreen make sure to look for a broad spectrum coverage, blocking both UVB and UVA rays.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

How does sunscreen actually work?  I’m glad you asked.  Physical sunscreens are mineral based and help reflect the suns rays often containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are the ones that leave you looking like Casper the friendly ghost, covering up that expensive spray tan you just got.  These are also the most natural sunscreens you can buy, if you’re looking for something not loaded with chemicals. 

Chemical sunscreens absorb the suns rays and convert them into heat. Allowing the rays to be absorbed, decreasing the degree to which they can penetrate your skin. These are the lotions that go on crystal clear and smell like a pina colada.  However, to achieve this, they are filled with chemicals known to cause health risks.  

photo by fullscript

If your looking for a guide to help choose safe sunscreen, check out the EWG list here.  

Additional Sun Protection Options

  • Wear a hat with a large brim
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • While outdoors take brakes in the shade
  • Spend less time in the sun during peak hours 10am to 4pm
  • Choose clothing that has sunscreen protection

We all love to have that healthy tan glow, but at what cost? Protecting ourselves from the sun will not only help you avoid skin cancer but also slow the rate of aging.  No-one wants to look like the old lady from What about Mary!!  So buy yourself a cute floppy hat, remember to use sunscreen and reapply often. 

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