Everybody knows that sunscreen is important, but few apply it as often as necessary. Clinical dermatology professor Neil Sadick claims that only one in five Americans utilizes proper sun protection on a daily basis. The devastating long-term consequences of poor sunscreen application can include wrinkles, age spots, and more alarmingly, cancer. Fortunately, a basic understanding of safe sunscreen practices and a commitment to sun protection can help you avoid a whole host of cosmetic and health problems. Clueless about safe sunscreen? Everything you need to know is outlined below:
Sun protection factor (SPF) measures the extent to which various types of sunscreen protect the skin from UV rays. Higher SPF is generally better, but only up to a point. For most people, an SPF of between 30 and 50 is ideal. However, with regular reapplication, an SPF of between 15 and 30 is acceptable. SPF 30 blocks nearly 97 percent of UV radiation; after this level, improvements in sun protection are incremental, at best.
UVA versus UVB
Most sunscreens provide ample protection against UVB rays but fail to address UVA, which penetrates even deeper into the skin than UVB. Vigilance is particularly important in the fight against UVA, as exposure can occur even when the sun is seemingly blocked by windowpanes. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides full protection against both types of UV. According to experts at Mayo Clinic, sunscreen should emphasize broad-spectrum over high SPF although both are important.
How much sunscreen should I apply?
For the average sunscreen user, the efficacy of even broad-spectrum protection is significantly compromised by insufficient application. Most people apply just over half a milligram of sunscreen per centimeter of skin when they should be applying at least four times as much. Additionally, many fail to reapply sunscreen as often as necessary. At a minimum, sunscreen should be applied at least once every two hours. However, more frequent reapplication may be necessary during long days in the pool or instances of heavy sweating.
Sun protection for babies
Most baby sunscreen products damage infants’ sensitive skin, so it is best to avoid direct sunlight and instead keep babies in the shade whenever possible. Additionally, babies should be dressed in long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses, and hats prior to heading outside, even if they do not encounter direct sunlight.
Regardless of age, consistent sun protection is essential. No one sunscreen brand is ideal for all skin types, so it may be necessary to experiment with a few brands. Once you find a brand you like, commit to applying and reapplying every day. Persistence will greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer and over time, can slow or even halt the pesky signs of sun-induced aging.
Post written by Josie Black