Spring is here and with it comes warmer temperatures and sunny skies. Many people will begin to ditch their winter-wear and spend their weekends away at the beach or the lake. These days by the shore may put you in a relaxed state of mind, but it is important to take proper measures to protect your skin.
To understand the importance of skin protection, you must first know about the sun and the rays it produces. The sun gives off three different types of rays that hit your skin while outside: UVB, UVA, and UVC rays. UVB rays are most prevalent between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and hit the skin’s surface layers. UVB rays are responsible for the majority of sunburns and sun damage you get after a long day in the sun without adequate protection.
UVA rays reach the deepest into your skin. Though less intense than UVB, UVA rays are able to seep into fresh skin that is forming deep beneath the skin’s surface, which can cause serious damage. Finally, UVC rays possess the most energy of all of the rays, but they are not present in sunlight and do not penetrate through our atmosphere.
The best practices for protection from these harmful rays are applying sunscreen, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and wearing a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt when in the direct sun. Also, taking breaks in the shade whenever possible is recommended.
“The key is that you use the correct SPF- probably a 30 minimum- apply it in the correct amount and apply it often,” said Donna Shanklin, a regional agent in Human Nutrition, Diet and Health with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
“SPF is a hard concept for many people to understand, but it is important to know if you want to shield your skin from the damage that the sun can cause. When a sunscreen bottle has a certain SPF number on it, it illustrates the product’s level of protection from UVB rays.”
For example, in the amount of time that it takes an individual to burn with no protection, it would take the same individual 30 times longer to burn while using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30.
You also want your sunscreen to protect against UVA rays. When shopping for a sunscreen that protects against UVA rays as well as UVB, look for ingredients such as benzophenones, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or Metroxyl SX.
A sunscreen that lists any of the previous ingredients, has an SPF of 15 or higher and states on the bottle that it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen is adequate for protection from the sun.
According to the Skin Care Foundation, one out of every five people will develop a type of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, in their lifetimes. Sunburn history, moles, the fairness of skin and family history all factor into an individual’s risk.
By implementing safe, sun protection procedures into your everyday life, you can greatly decrease your chances of skin damage and the development of skin cancer.
So, when you are eager to spend your days outdoors this spring, make sure that skin protection is your first priority.
consumer decision-making guide to using sunscreen
Donna Shanklin, Regional Extension Agent, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Alabama Cooperative Extension System