Too few people take action to protect their skin from sun damage, which can not only lead to sunburn, but it also accelerates aging and skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that sunscreen is part of the daily routine of only 29.9 percent of women and 14.3 percent of men. That could explain why skin melanoma rates have been increasing on average 1.4 percent each year over the last decade, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The lack of protection against sun damage might be a matter of disinformation. Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi said there is no sunproof skin color and recommended applying about a shot glass full of sunscreen every time people sweat it out or every two hours, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

There are many types of sunscreens available in the market, but the facial plastic surgeon and former co-chief of the UCLA division of dermatology Dr. Ronald Moy recommends traditional sunscreen cream rather than sprays and towelettes, explaining that these are less likely to provide a uniform protection.

Photo credit: Expert Beacon
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that sunscreen is part of the daily routine of only 29.9 percent of women and 14.3 percent of men. Photo credit: Expert Beacon

Also a Beverly Hills dermatologist, he told LA Times that he prefers Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 or higher. Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not to expose babies under 6 months old to the sun, parents can apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher in the case of unavoidable situations.

SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of ultraviolet B (UV-B) light, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, Moy said.

The Sun Protection Factor measures the protection sunscreen offers against UVB rays, which represents the segment of the sunlight responsible for sunburns. Lauren Ploch, a dermatologist from the Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, recommends an SPF of around 30 and remarks the importance of reapplying it every hour-and-a-half when doing outdoor activities, according to the report by Patch.

But even more important than looking at the SPF number is making sure that the sunscreen to be used includes “broad spectrum protection”. This means that the product offers protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

“UVB rays are the chief cause of sunburn and skin inflammation,” said Moy, as quoted by the LA Times. “UVA rays play a major role in skin aging and wrinkling. Both UVB and UVA rays can cause gene mutations and skin cancer.”

Sunglasses should also provide protection against UVA and UVB. Ploch said that some countries are already providing measurements for UVA protection on the products they offer and added that the United States might join the mix over time.

How to make an informed decision

It is important to note that SPF numbers are intended to increase the length of time people can stay in the sun without being at risk of skin damage, but dermatologists still emphasize the need to reapply sunscreen after 120 minutes. For example, a sunscreen with SPF 50 could provide protection for up to 500 minutes, but people are still advised to reapply it at least every two hours.

However, SPF 50 should theoretically prevent more UV rays from affecting the skin and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that any sunscreen above that is not likely to provide significant protection.

As for “waterproof” sunscreens, manufacturers are now prohibited to include such a promise to market their products. None truly is but they are allowed to claim their sunscreens are resistant to water for up to 80 minutes.

Consumer Reports recently published a study that found that nearly half of all water resistant sunscreens did not provide the protection their SPF label promised after users went in the water. Similar results have been found over the last four years and Consumer Reports has sent its latest set of results to the FDA for review, according to Patch.

In order to avoid such disappointment, the study editors recommend people to buy a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 40. In the worst of the cases, the product will turn out being above 30, which is the minimum SPF recommended.

But, of course, dermatologists still remark the importance of regularly using sunscreen and affirm that the most relevant practice to prevent overexposure to the sun is limiting time in it, particularly when rays are at their highest intensity (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). Wearing sunscreen does not necessarily prevents the skin from getting a tan, which is a sign of sun damage by ultraviolet light.

“Any ultraviolet-induced tan, whether it’s from the sun or from a tanning bed, is a sign that you’ve had sun damage to your skin,” said Melissa Piliang, Patch reported.

Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, told Patch that people who wear sunscreen plus a hat or other clothing are less likely to have their skin hurt, compared to those who just wear sunscreen. UV protection sunglasses, protective clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor 30 or higher and broad-brimmed hats are recommended.

Source: Los Angeles Times