It’s that time of year again. Long, hot summer days spent at the pool or just being outdoors to enjoy nature.
Keeping your skin protected from the sun is crucial to prevent sunburns as well as the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreen is the best way to keep your skin safe from the sun’s harmful rays. Educating yourself on different types of sunblock and its importance will help keep your skin safe this summer.
UVA, UVB, SPF…so many initials!
UVA and UVB are types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun. Although the atmosphere’s ozone layer shields us from most of this radiation, the UV light that gets through can cause damage to our skin.
UVB light is primarily responsible for sunburn. UVA light penetrates the skin more than UVB light does and causes tanning. Both types of UV light contribute to premature skin aging, skin cancer and other types of skin damage.
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor.” The SPF number is a measurement of how well a product protects against UVB light. Contrary to what many people believe, SPF is not an indication of how much time you can spend in the sun. If you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 rather than one with an SPF of 15, it doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun twice as long. Rather, it means that a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 filters out about 93 percent of UVB rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 offers slightly more protection because it filters about 97 percent of UVB rays.
Sunblock…how do I know what to use?
The best sunblock varies from person to person. However, most dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunblock with UVA and UVB protection and a SPF rating of at least 30.
Sunblocks tend to be divided into two categories – chemical vs. physical agents. Chemical sunblocks work by absorbing the energy of UV radiation before it affects your skin. Physical sunblocks reflect or scatter UV radiation before it reaches your skin. Both agents are important, so look for sunscreens that have both.
There are many different varieties of sunblocks to choose from. Lotions, oils, sticks, gels, sprays and creams can all be effective sunscreens. All sunscreens should be applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure to allow a protective film to develop, then reapplied after water contact and sweating. Reapplying every two hours is important, as some sunblocks can lose effectiveness after that time.
If you enjoying swimming or are involved in other water sports, water resistant sunblocks are available. Sunscreens can be labeled “water-resistant” (maintains the SPF level after 40 minutes of water immersion) or “very water-resistant” (maintains the SPF level after 80 minutes of water immersion).
Top 10 Sunblock Brands
Coolibar, the nation’s leading sun protective clothing manufacturer, conducted a survey to reveal the top 10 dermatologist recommended sunscreen brands. The survey was conducted at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) in Miami Beach, FL.
The top 10 list is a mix of mass-market sunscreens and specialty brands. They are listed in order of the frequency with which they are recommended by dermatologists to patients:
- La Roche-Posay
- Blue Lizard
New FDA Sunscreen Labeling
Currently, the FDA is proposing new regulations for sunscreen labeling. Under the new regulation, the agency has proposed that sunscreen labeling be expanded to provide a four-star rating system that informs consumers how well the product protects them against UVA light.
“For more than 30 years, consumers have been able to identify the level of UVB protection provided by sunscreens using only sunburn protection factor or SPF values,” said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drugs. Under this proposal, “consumers will also now know the level of UVA protection in sunscreens, which will help them make informed decisions about protecting themselves and their children against the harmful effects of the sun.”
The proposed UVA rating system is as follows:
- One star, low UVA protection
- Two stars, medium protection
- Three stars, high protection
- Four stars, the highest UVA protection available in an over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen product
The FDA also proposes changes regarding protection against UVB light. The agency would like to change its existing rule on UVB products to increase the maximum sunburn protection factor from SPF 30+ to SPF 50+.
So enjoy the lazy days of summer spent by the pool or hosting barbeques with friends and family. But remember to stay safe and wear your sunscreen 🙂
If you have any concerns regarding sun protection and skin care, please consult your physician or dermatologist.
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