The warming weather beckons us all outside, but don't expose yourself to premature aging and unnecessary sun damage! Live safely under the sun with these solar defense strategies. Here's what to know before you bask in the glow:
Ask the Esthetician:
Q: What's the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
A: UVB rays affect the surface layer of the skin and are the cause of sunburn. UVA rays penetrate to the deep layer of the skin and cause tanning. UVA rays also cause long term damage in the form of wrinkles and premature aging. Both UVA and UVB rays have been linked to skin cancers.
Q: What should I look for on a sunscreen label?
A: SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the rating of how much protection a product offers from sunburn (UVB rays) only. Currently there is no standard for labeling UVA protection in North America. To find a sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays you need to read the fine print. Look for products that list one of the following as an Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX (ecamsule). Sunscreens that use only Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide are generally recommended for children and sensitive skin types.
Q: How much protection do I need?
A: The amount of protection you get will depend on several factors, including how fair your skin is, the time of day and how much and how often you apply. No sunscreen can provide 100% protection from UV rays. There's actually not much difference in UVB protection from an SPF 15 to an SPF 30, so don't rely on higher numbers thinking you won't need to reapply. Layering different types of products that contain sunscreen (like moisturizer, foundation, powder) is a great option for increased protection or reapplication, just keep in mind that the combined SPF will not equal the sum of the two (or more) products ratings.
Q: How much sunscreen should I apply? How often?
A: Few people apply sunscreen thickly enough to get the full SPF. Estimate about an ounce for the whole body. Don't forget often overlooked areas like the ears and exposed necklines! Aim to apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapply at least every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Q: Isn't sunscreen only for sunny summer days?
A: You should use sunscreen every day, rain or shine. Even on a cloudy or hazy day, UV rays are active. UV rays bounce off things like water, snow, sand and concrete, so even if you're in the shade you still need protection. If you spend the daylight hours in an office you may think you don't need a sunscreen, but you're being exposed to UV rays near windows or when you're in a vehicle.
Q: If I have dark skin or get a base tan am I more protected?
A: Skin of every color needs sunscreen. Having a darker skin tone or getting a base tan means you generally wont burn as quickly, but this does nothing to protect you from UVA damage. The only safe tan is one produced with a self-tanner, and even then you will still need the protection of a good sunscreen.