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Future Health

Sunscreen Basics

May 14, 2018 

Warm weather is approaching and it’s essential to protect your skin from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Constant sun burns and even sun exposure can lead to several health problems including melanoma. Melanoma is a form a skin cancer – the most dangerous form according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is caused by exposure to UV rays most commonly originating from natural sunlight but occasionally from an indoor tanning bed. Indoor tanning has become popular over the last few years but due to its link to causing cancer, its popularity has been slowly declining. 

It should be obvious to stay out of the sun any way you can to protect your skin from the dangers of sun exposure but it really isn’t. It’s far too common for people to go outside without protecting their skin with sunscreen. Aside from clothing, sunscreen is pretty much your only defense against those harsh UV rays.


Here’s what you need to know about sunscreen:

1. When buying sunscreen, buy one that is SPF 30 or higher. SPF refers to sun protection factor which essentially measures how long a sunscreen will protect you. Make sure it’s broad spectrum.

2. Apply before you go outside and apply generously.

3. Apply to all bare skin including your ears and the top of your feet. You can use sunscreen on your lips but most lip balms now usually have SPF in them.

4. Now reapply! No matter what you hear from your friends, you have to reapply your sunscreen. Sweat and water from swimming will wash away the sunscreen no matter what.


What do the SPF numbers actually mean? Well, the time it takes you to burn (let’s say 10 minutes without sunscreen) multiplied by the number that comes before the SPF should give you the time you can spend in the sun. For example:

10 minutes (until sunburn) X 30 SPF = 300 minutes (5 hours) in the sun

HOWEVER, this is NOT a perfect science. People sweat and go swimming which may wash away your original layer of sunscreen which is why it’s essential that you reapply every couple of hours.

A good practice is to just rub on some sunscreen after your morning shower if you plan on heading out for the day. Buying a facial moisturizer with SPF in it will also aid in keeping you face healthy and burn free.

It’s crucial that you purchase broad spectrum sunscreen because regular sunscreen may only protect against UVB rays. There are two types of UV rays (radiation) – UVA and UVB. UVA is a less intense ray that can penetrate your epidermal layer (top layer of skin) to cause premature wrinkling and skin aging. This is the ray that causes your skin to tan which we now know causes cumulative damage. Sunburns occur when the skin is exposed to too much UVB radiation which doesn’t generally penetrate the epidermal layer of your skin. That means UVB rays cause superficial damage. And don't think just because it's cloudy out that you're safe from the sun, according to the SCF up to 80% of the suns harmful UV rays can pass through clouds.

So the next time you're heading outside, please protect your skin. You'll thank yourself later.