Is sunscreen really that important?
Yes and there’s scientific research to prove it. Tanned skin is often held up as a standard of beauty. Think of the ads you see of men and women frolicking on the beach – there’s seldom a pale body among them. But what many don’t realize, or simply choose to ignore, is that tanned skin is damaged skin. The actual tanned/darkened skin is a sign of skin damage.
Skin cancer is on the rise and is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. In 2021 there were approximately 106,110 new cases of skin melanoma and 7,180 deaths. New 2022 estimated deaths according to National Cancer Institute are reaching even higher numbers at 7,650. That’s 470 more deaths than last year and 2022 is only halfway over.
What does sunscreen do?
Besides the obvious, preventing burns. Sunscreen also:
- Reduces the signs of aging
- Limit the appearance of sunspots
- Reduces your risk of skin cancer
Sunscreen works by blocking and absorbing UV rays through a combination of physical and chemical particles. Physical particles such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are used to reflect UV radiation from the skin.
Who needs sunscreen?
The short answer is everyone! Men, Women, and children over 6 months of age should use sunscreen daily. This includes people who tan easily and those who don’t. Remember, your skin is slowly being damaged by sun exposure over your lifetime whether you burn or not.
What sunscreen should I use?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use sunscreen that offers the following:
- Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
- SPF 30 or higher
- Water resistance
UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.
UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.
How should you apply sunscreen?
Most people don’t apply the right amount of sunscreen, according to the American Academy of Dermatology You should put on enough sunscreen to cover all your skin not protected by clothing. Most people (adults) need to use about 1-2 ounces of sunscreen to cover their body. In addition, you will need to Apply 15 minutes before going outdoors. Be sure to apply to your:
- Tops of your feet
- Part line at the top of your head.
- Best effect against cancer caused from the sun is to use every day 3 days a year.
A sunscreen that offers the above helps to protect your skin from sunburn, early skin aging, and skin cancer. However, sunscreen alone cannot fully protect you. In addition to wearing sunscreen, dermatologists recommend taking the following steps to protect your skin and detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable:
- Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
- Dress to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, you may wish to use a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
- Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, itching, or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early.
The bottom line when it comes to sun protection.
You need daily protection from UVA and UVB rays. Every day, all year around. If your skin is not covered by protective clothing, then it needs to be protected with sunscreen. Not only will this reduce your risk of skin cancer, but it will help keep your skin looking healthier and more youthful.