How to Establish an Effective Sun Protection Routine
Sun Safety: Sunscreen + Sun Hats = Best Sun Protection
We are all aware of the importance of sun protection. We are well beyond sun protection 101. Yet, we find it easy to justify why we skip days, skip steps of playing an active role in preventing skin damage or skin cancer.
As parents we are always concerned with sun exposure while our children play outside. We feel obliged to constantly annoy them by rubbing on another layer of sunscreen and remind them to put their hat back on. As adults, we forget to pay attention to how much time we spend under the sun. We might just be running in and out with the towels, snacks and sunscreen for the kids; step out to get the mail; take out the trash; a quick walk with the dog. We do not worship the sun but forget to consider the total time we spend exposed to sunlight without any sun protection.
We often hear similar statements and questions from our customers: my dermatologist said I must wear a hat, but I never wear hats, what is the best sun protection hat? We thought, we'll challenge you to establish a daily sun protection routine for yourself and your family to enjoy the outdoors without fear and regret later. So, let's dive into why it is important to make daily sun protection regimen a way of life.
Repeated Over Exposure Has A Cumulative Effect
Exposure to sunlight is important for our physical and mental health. However, only a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure a day is needed to produce enough serotonin and vitamin D levels for strong bones and a healthy state of mind. Sun exposure is beneficial for certain skin and autoimmune conditions, and depression. While there are many good reasons to get sun, too much exposure can cause mild, temporary and long-lasting permanent damage to our bodies. The unfortunate fact is that repeated overexposure has a cumulative damaging effect. Repeated sunburns, blistering can lead to early skin aging, and skin cancers. Excessive sun exposure can also cause eye damage and immune system suppression.
Know Your Skin's Reaction Time to Sunlight?
To find the delicate line between enjoying the beneficial effects of sunlight and getting overexposed to harmful UV radiation, you need to know how your skin reacts to sunlight. Let your skin be your guide and pay attention to the amount of time it takes before any redness or tanning occur without any sun protection.
This depends on your skin type and how directly the light rays hit earth where you are. Fair skin generally burns quicker; however, a nice suntan does not protect against further sun damage. Remind yourself that tanning is your skin's defense response to too much sun exposure. Sunburn occur faster where light rays hit earth more directly, during summer months, and daily between 10 am and 4 pm. During summer vacation sun protection comes more routinely, but it is just as important during winter getaways, as higher elevations and reflective surfaces increase risk of over exposure.
Why We Must Protect Against Ultraviolet Radiation
Ultraviolet radiation is everywhere. We cannot see UV radiation, but we certainly feel it. The two types of ultraviolet radiation A and B (UVA and UVB) have been proven to damage the skin cell’s DNA which can lead to premature wrinkles, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma skin cancers, and eye damage.
Ultraviolet Radiation A, UVA
Longer wavelength ultraviolet A radiation causes tanning, aging of the skin and skin cancer. Of the total ultraviolet radiation reaching Earth, UVA accounts for 95%, and it is year-round, everywhere, all the time. UVA penetrates glass windows and even cloud cover. UVA radiation was thought to be harmless in the past, and sunscreens did not include protection against UVA. Tanning beds also mainly used UVA rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper the top layer of the skin where skin cancers occur.
Ultraviolet Radiation B, UVB
Shorter wavelength ultraviolet B penetrate the outer layer of the skin, and cause sunburn and blistering of the skin. UVB radiation is less constant year-round. UVB cause more damage during spring - summer months, during mid-day exposure, and of course in warmer climate. However, UVB rays also cause skin damage during fall - winter months, especially on higher elevation and on reflective surfaces, such as snow. UVB rays do not penetrated glass, and UVB rays can be filtered.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor vs Sun Protection Factor - UPF vs SPF, what's the difference?
Both factors refer to UV protection to assist you in choosing products that will block damaging sun rays to reduce sun damage risk to your skin.
UPF - ultraviolet protection factor is a rating system used for garments, hats, materials to show their effectiveness in blocking harmful ultraviolet A and B rays.
Garments and hats are ranked in three major categories. UPF 15 - 20 provides good protection by blocking 93 - 96% of UVA and UVB radiation. UPF rating 25 - 40 is considered very good sun protection by blocking 96 - 97.4% of UV radiation. Products rated UPF 50 and 50+ considered excellent sun protection. These materials block over 97.5% of UV rays.
SPF - sun protection factor is used to measure protection provided by a sunscreen against UVB rays that cause sunburn, damage skin, and contribute to skin cancer.
A sunscreen rated SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation (it blocks 93 photons out of 100). An SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 97% of UVB rays (97 photons out of 100). The SPF 50 rating means the sunscreen blocks 98% of UVB rays (it blocks 98 photons out of 100). Note, the SPF 30 provides twice as much protection as the SPF 15 sunscreen. Contrary to popular belief, SPF 50 and higher rated sunscreens do not offer significantly more protection than the SPF 30.
The SPF factor number means how many times longer you can stay in the sun than it normally takes to get a sunburn. For example, if it takes 10 minutes for your skin to turn red, after applying an SPF 30 sunscreen, it should take 300 minutes before your skin turns red. Note, that SPF number does not reference the minutes the sunscreen will be effectively protect against sun exposure.
To protect your skin best, re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours regardless of the SPF calculation. Under-applying sunscreen reduces the sun protection to the square root of the factor. In the case of an SPF 30 sunscreen, it would only provide 50-60 minutes of sun protection. When choosing a sunscreen, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also blocks UVA, at least 1/3rd of the UVB. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect your skin better than a high SPF factor sunscreen that mostly protects only against UVB.
Bottom line, it is not UPF vs SPF, it really is UPF plus SPF to achieve excellent sun protection. Wearing a hat along with a sunscreen is the best sun protection choice to protect your head (face, nose, scalp, ears), and neck against both UVA and UVB rays. Hats and sunscreen provide complimentary sun protection for the areas where one or the other would lack protection.
STEPS TO ESTABLISH AN EXCELLENT SUN PROTECTION ROUTINE:
- know your skin, know how long it takes before you get a sunburn;
- stay indoors mid-day, especially during summer months;
- wear sun protection if you will be exposed to sunlight over 15 minutes;
- use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also protects against UVA rays;
- apply sunscreen everywhere, don't skip scalp, ears, back of neck;
- re-apply sunscreen every two hours;
- wear a wide brim UPF 50+ rated sun protective hat and protective clothing;
- wear sunglasses to protect your eyes;
- place a UV blocking film on the windows of your home and car;
- don't skip sun protection on cloudy days;
- quit the tanning beds, if you haven't already;
- start today!
Tune in for the next part: Choosing a great sun protection hat that you will wear.