Dermatologists have been preaching about sunscreen for years. Skincare and cosmetic companies are now frequently incorporating sunscreen into their products. Outdoor clothing companies have started including sun protective qualities in their shirts and hats, and listing UPF ratings on the article’s tags. Every season more sunscreens are released, varying SPF ratings, application techniques (cream, spray, mist, stick), scents, and other characteristics. Protecting your skin from the sun is becoming easier by the day, but when can you skip sunscreen altogether? Bottom line: you should NEVER skip sun protection during daylight hours.
The purpose of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor: the effectiveness of sun protective fabrics) and SPF (Sun Protection Factor: the effectiveness of sunscreen. Unless specifically stated as broad-spectrum, SPF only measures the protectiveness of UVB rays) products is to protect our skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation. UV rays are different from light rays and heat rays; even during overcast skies or cold temperatures, you are still susceptible to harmful UV rays. For many, it is now habitual to wear sunscreen when headed outside during the summer, but you should rub on that sunscreen before engaging in winter sports too. Water, sand, and snow all reflect UV rays, increasing your risk of sun damage.
It is important to note that every skin color is susceptible to sun damage, regardless of the amount of melanin in the skin. Whether you’re black, white, or any shade in between, your skin needs protection from the sun. Sun damage is more than a bad burn and extra wrinkles. “Sun damage” refers to all changes to the skin, both visible and invisible, that are a direct result of exposure to UV light. Included within the spectrum of damage caused by the sun are:
- Development of fine lines and wrinkles
- Dark spots (sometimes referred to as “liver spots” or “age spots”)
- Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions
- “Leathery” looking skin
- Yellowing of the skin
- Dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
- Destruction of elastin and collagen fibers
- Sagging skin
- Rough, scaly patches of skin, or raised bumps (Actinic Keratosis)
- A reddish-brown discoloration on the neck (Poikiloderma)
- Exacerbated blackheads and whiteheads, typically around the eyes (Favre-Racouchot Syndrome)
- Exacerbation of inflammation and other skin issues like psoriasis or rosacea
- A sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection. Remember, unless the packaging specifically states that it is “broad spectrum” or that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, it only protects against UVB, the sunburn-causing rays.
- Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
- Sunscreen with water resistance
- Apply enough sunscreen to protect all skin not covered by clothing. For most adults, that is about one ounce of sunscreen.
- Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, regardless of SPF, and after any water exposure or sweating, per your sunscreen’s instructions.
Conveniently, many facial lotions and makeup products now include SPF protection. Starting your day by applying protective products is a great start, but no matter what type of product you use, it is necessary to reapply every two hours to sufficiently protect your skin.
- An SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- An SPF of 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- An SPF of 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
- An SPF of 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays
Remember: a higher SPF (or UPF!) does not increase the amount of time you can spend in the sun without reapplying, but increases the number of UV rays from which you are protected.*
It is true that using sunscreen may decrease your skin’s production of vitamin D, which is necessary for the body’s absorption of calcium, but you can easily get the vitamin D you need from other sources, like food and vitamin supplements. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin D, discuss options with your doctor.
Some sun damage can be reversed, but it is much easier and more effective to prevent it, rather than treat skin issues after the fact. Call our office with any questions, or schedule a consultation online to discuss a personalized skin care plan that heals and prevents sun damage.