SPF-ied

The light the sun emits is consisted of three types of radiation: infrared, visible and ultraviolet. Of the three, ultraviolet (UV) is the one that is harmful to humans. There are two types of UV rays that reach the Earth, UVA and UVB. Even though UVA radiation does not burn the surface layers of the skin, it penetrates it and can cause skin cancers, premature aging and wrinkling to the skin. UVB radiation is responsible red skin burn resulted prolonged sun exposure. UVB rays are also responsible for skin cancer and damage to the eye (like cataract).

So, it’s more than essential to protect the skin from the unpleasant consequences of exposure to the sun, but are sunscreen lotions and cosmetics with spf (Sun Protection Factor) enough?

Here is what you need to know:

In order to be protected from both UVA and UVB radiation, opt for a sunscreen that has “broad spectrum” protection or/ and that it is clearly declared on the label that it provides protection from both UVA and UVB.

Cosmetics have not been applied to the same regulations as sunscreens regarding spf labeling (in the US), but from now on that will change. That means that if a foundation, for example, has had spf 15, it does not offer the protection a sunscreen with spf 15 does, or any protection at all, for that matter. With the new regulation, though, the same foundation will be labeled without spf.

Sunscreens should be applied generously, in order to get the full spf protection they offer.

Sunscreens should be applied 20 – 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and be reapplied every couple of hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.

Sun rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm.

Surfaces like water, sand, snow or concrete reflect sun and can increase the UV radiation exposed to skin.

Clothes and hats act as shields towards UV radiation. Sunglasses (with UV filters) are the absolute protection for your eyes. The protective power of old sunglasses might have been diminished. An optician would be able to define their effectiveness.

Sunlamps and tanning beds emit UVA and UVB radiation (mainly UVA), so as to produce tan. That means that they can cause serious skin and eye problems, including cancer, cataract, suppression of the immune system and premature aging.

High spf sunscreens are accused of giving false sense of security, while adding extra chemicals to the skin. In EU spf labels can go up to 50+ and in Australia up to 30+. In the US it has been proposed a higher spf of 50+. Spf 30 seems appropriate for a day in the sun.

Spf is not cumulative. For example, if you apply an spf 15 and an spf 30, you don’t get protection of an spf 45.

Make sure to apply sunscreen to all skin exposed to sun, including hands, ears, back of neck, back of knees, top of feet and toes (if you are wearing flip flops or sandals). And also, don’t forget your lips.

Expired sunscreens might not be as effective, but any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.


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