I was leaving the pharmacy after completing my shift, cutting down the aisle lined with hundreds of sunscreen products. A woman caught my eye just as I increased my pace to exit the store. “Hey guy with the white coat, can you help me?” she said. The woman was confused on selecting the right product to protect her skin. “Is the best ones those with the most outrageous prices?” I smiled back at her and asked if she was a member of the Sun Protection Program. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said “huh.” I responded, “It’s almost like the Witness Protection Program but in this case the bad guy is the sun.” “You making this stuff up aren’t you?” she said. I laughed and said “Of course, but the facts are you need barrier protection first which includes a wide brim hat and good quality sunglasses.” She smiled, “I have sunglasses but I promise I will get a hat too. Mr. Pharmacist, I really need to know which product to get for myself.”
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number is the thing you use to multiply by to figure out how many minutes protection of the product lasts while you’re in the sun. For example, let’s say you would normally burn in 10 minutes not wearing any sunscreen. If you put on a product that has an SPF 30 then you are now protected for:
Multiply 10 minutes by SPF 30 = 300 minutes ÷ 60 minutes/hour = 5 hours
Think your protected for whole 5 hours? Your not!! The maximum amount of time for any protection no matter what the SPF is about 2 hours. If you swim or sweat you need to reapply as soon as possible.
When selecting a product for guarding our skin from overexposure to the sun many consumers think the higher the SPF number, the better. Take a look at the reality of those numbers and the % of protection from UVB (Ultraviolet B radiation) only:
For any numbers above SPF 30, extra protection is minimal. In addition, higher numbers mean the product is harder to apply and more expensive. So the magical number is SPF 30 to ensure practical protection against UVB radiation. There is no product that can protect against 100% of UVB rays.
Products must also guard against UVA radiation. These rays are more penetrating than UVB. In fact, UVA rays will penetrate your car windows. Drivers have a higher incidence of cancer from UVA on the left side of their upper bodies (face and neck). Besides the sun, UVA is given off by both tanning booths and most plant lights. One needs opaque goggles for the eyes if you unfortunately patronize a suntan facility. The hazards of sun tanning lights are they dose the body with 12 times more UVA than the sun. I love how people, all for a tan, pay to significantly increase chances for skin cancer. Also, those working under plant lights should wear good quality sunglasses to lower chances of cataract incidence from UV radiation.
There are three different types of UV rays known as UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is blocked by ozone surrounding our planet. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, premature aging, skin spots and cancer. UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB. This damages the skin even more than UVB, causing skin wrinkling and rapid aging. It is responsible for initiating skin cancer and contributing to the damage done by UVB.
As for the frustrated damsel in distress and her hunt for the “perfect” sunscreen product, I recommended this EWG (Environmental Working Group) sunscreen site:
The above unbiased site gives the best and safest sunscreen products on the market. With the help of this information, I was able to help this woman choose a great product.
Tips To Keep Body Skin Looking As Good As That On Your Butt
1. Purchase a quality, full-spectrum (UVA, UVB) pair of sunglasses, look for UV 400 protection, also could be labeled as ANSI Z80.32.
2. Wear a hat, especially protective wide-brim variety
3. Find a safe, effective full-spectrum (UVA, UVB) suntan products, see EWG site above
4. Apply suntan product at least 15 minutes before exposure, optimally 30 minutes before exposure
5. Reapply every 2 hours or right after swimming or profusely sweating
6. Worse time to be out in the sun for any length of time is between the hours of 10 AM-4 PM
7. Newborns should be kept out of the sun till 6 months of age and thereafter use sunscreen on any exposed area plus hat and sunglasses
Even though the elderly sun is 6 billion years old and 93 million millions away, it still has the destructive power to shorten our lives. Protect yourselves with a hat, quality sunglasses and a safe full spectrum (covers UVA and UVB) suntan product.
Do all that you can to control the sun’s rays to stop them from damaging our skin.
Photo credit: mhofstrand / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)