Inside: Sunscreen: 5 Significant Reasons You Need To Use It.
I was married in 1994 and my wife and I decided to vacation in St Lucia for a week. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were given a complimentary cocktail and shown to our room. We changed and decided we’d spend some time relaxing poolside in a lounge chair. We had a long day traveling and were still recuperating from the wedding festivities. It was extremely cloudy but we decided to layout anyway. Not once did I apply lotion and was branded for the remainder of our trip with a triangle-shaped burn on my forehead that to this day doesn’t look right when I sit in the sun.
I come from a long line of sun-worshipping people. My parents regularly took us to the beach as children. As teenagers, we went with our friends often skipping school for some time on the sand. To this day we go as a family with my two girls to the beach to relax. Growing up we heard very little about the dangers of the sun (I’m in my 50’s which should help put that statement in perspective). There were ads for suntan lotion but these ads didn’t focus on the harmful effects of the sun. Instead, they told you how you’d have that “Copper Tone look”, or the Ban De Soleil San Tropez tan.
As teenagers, we didn’t look for ways to block the sun but instead would apply Crisco or Baby Oil to help speed up our tan. I realize this statement sounds insane but I’m guilty as charged. I’d like to put my faith in science and believe that the ozone layer wasn’t as diminished in the ’70s and ’80s and that’s why we didn’t burn as easily or maybe we were just plain lucky. When I was younger I was able to achieve a nice golden tan but nowadays even my Italian skin burns.
Mom and dads at the beach are constantly shouting “make sure you put on sunscreen”. Though everyone, including us parents, is more aware of the dangers of the sun many don’t take enough precautions. Did you know that skin cancer is consistently at the top of the list of the most popular forms of cancer in the United States? It’s also a form of cancer that is easily the most possible to avoid. Just stay inside, never got out, or if you do cover your entire body from head to toe. We know this isn’t a rational thing to do so how do we prevent being overexposed to the big yellow fireball in the sky?
Why is it important to wear sunscreen?
Reduces your chances of cancer
Applying sunscreen daily, whether you are lying out in the sun, or just out for the day decreases your risks of skin cancer. Even if it’s cloudy or raining you can still get sunburned. The sun is always “out” during the day, you just might not be able to see it but you can still get burned. Remember my story of St. Lucia?
Helps prevent aging of the skin
One of the top causes of premature aging is exposure to the sun. No one wants leathery skin so to prevent premature aging and wrinkles apply sunscreen. Sunscreen also helps to provide a good even tone to your skin and prevents sun damage that can cause discoloration, brown spots, and age spots.
Shields you from harmful UV rays
We’ve been hearing about the ozone layer depleting for my entire life. The ozone layer is our protective shield from the sun. Since it’s been depleting it means more harmful rays from the sun get through to your skin daily.
Sunscreen protects all skin types
The darker your complexion, the more melanin in your skin which offers SOME protection from sunburns, but not enough. You still need to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. While it is true that fair-skinned people are more likely to burn and develop skin cancer (sorry my Irish friends), people with dark skin tones are at risk of skin cancer as well, and often the cancer they develop is worse.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that EVERYONE wear sunscreen daily.
Sun damage is cumulative
There is no such thing as a safe tan. All tans are damaging your skin. Every time you are exposed to the sun you contribute a bit more to cellular damage of your skin. Wearing sunscreen helps to prevent that damage. Like most people, I feel I look more healthy with a tan but over the years I can see the damage the sun has taken on my skin. At this point in my life, I wear sunscreen religiously when outside.
How do you choose the right sunscreen?
SPF or sun protection factor is what measures your protection from damaging UVB rays. The formula for sun protection is as follows. If you typically burn in 10 minutes in the sun an SPF of 10 will allow you to stay in the sun for 100 minutes. (10 times longer, therefore, SPF 10) This is not an exact science but currently is the best we have.
The most common SPF level is 30 and where most people are recommended to start. SPF levels go as high as SPF 50+. The difference between SPF 30 and 50 is negligible but every little bit helps.
It’s vital to look for a sunscreen that lists broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum ensures that you are protected from both UVB and UVA rays. Remember, UVB rays are the ones that burn you but UVA goes deep into the skin and helps increase the effects of the UVB rays.
Lotion or spray
The most popular forms of sunscreen are the traditional lotion which has been around for many years or the newer sprays. A spray can be more effective to use on your children or if you need to apply lotion on yourself. A spray can also help to reach some of those hard to reach areas on your body like your back.
Products have also been made formulated to contain sunscreen. Products like face and body lotions and lip care. These are good for year-round use when you aren’t planning on spending a full day in the sun. These products are useful if you walk to your job in the morning or are out throughout the day. These are not to be used when you plan on spending a day at the beach or pool. In those situations stick to true sunscreen product.
Apply and Reapply
As important as it is to put on sunscreen in the first place, it is also important to reapply regularly throughout the day especially when spending full days outside. One time is not enough. Sunscreen must be applied every 2 hours and sooner if you are swimming or sweating. Don’t forget areas like your ears, nose, and under your eyes when applying sunscreen. When it comes to children it’s even more important to make sure they are protected with sunscreen. They will fight you on this, mine still roll their eyes and they are teenagers but make sure they apply and reapply! A sunburn at an early age greatly increases your chances of skin cancer later in life so be careful with your children.
What to do besides sunscreen
The best way to avoid sunburn is to stay out of the sun. If you’re outside for extended periods find some shade. Bring an umbrella to the beach so you can duck under for cover if the sun is too strong. If you’re in a park or hiking find a tree. There is some great clothing being sold that prevents damaging sun rays from getting through.
Wear a hat whenever possible. Something with a brim is best to shade your face as well. Guys, there is nothing worse than a burn on the top of your scalp. Bald guys and men with thinning hair, this means cover-up or lather up! Sunglasses are also a great accessory to protect your eyes from the sun. Look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. (most of them do these days)
At all costs avoid tanning beds as they are just plain dangerous. This excerpt is from the Sun and Skin Cancer News and was first published in the 2017 issue of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal.
Tanning beds are not safer than lying out in the sun. People who have ever used a tanning bed have a 67 percent increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29 percent increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Melanoma is very prevalent in women in their early 20s, and a lot of that is attributed to tanning bed use. That’s one of the reasons many states have restricted their use for minors.
Protect Yourself year-round
It’s important to make sure you are protected from the sun at all times, not just during the summer months. The reflection of the sun off the snow is just as dangerous and can easily cause sunburn. I’ve gotten many suntans while skiing in January. The same goes for springtime. Due to the angle of the sun in late spring and early summer, it is critical to be protected at all times.
Make sure you are doing your skin cancer self-exams regularly. Look for any new marks or spots that are new or any existing spots that have changed color or size. If you notice anything out of the ordinary consult with a Dermatologist.
If you’re outside for any reason during any season make sure you have your sunscreen handy and apply and reapply regularly. Your skin will thank you when you’re older!
Have you ever had a terrible sunburn? Comment below.