Does everyone really need sunscreen?
Simply put, yes. As the sun is warm and inviting, it also has harmful ultraviolet rays. Studies show that proper use of sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer, a disease that effects a startling 1 in 5 Americans. Literally anyone from babies to seniors can be diagnosed with skin cancer, but to our benefit, everyone can also use sunscreen to help combat it.
On top of helping to keep you free from skin cancer, other benefits of sunscreen include reducing the appearance of facial red veins and blotching, slowing the development of wrinkles or premature aging, and preventing facial brown spots and skin discolorations.
How do I know what type of sunscreen to use?
Looking in the sunscreen aisle at your local store can be daunting. So many brands offer so many different protections in various ways, like spray, creams, gels, and sticks. The bottom line is that the American Academy of Dermatology has three requirements that they ask all sunscreen users follow:
- Be sure the sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection, meaning that it protects you against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet A rays usually penetrate deep into the skin and cause long-term skin damage, aging, and wrinkles. They also can pass through window glass. Ultraviolet B is the type that causes surface-level discomfort, such as sunburn, and is blocked by window glass.
- Use a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher. SPF stands for Sun-Protection Factor and the ratings associated with SPF – meant to rate how well the sunscreen blocks out damaging sun rays – range anywhere from 2 to 100. No sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays (SPF 30 blocks approximately 97%), and the United States’ Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the maximum SPF value on sunscreen should be “50+,” as there is insufficient evidence to conclude a true difference in protection between products that are SPF 50, 75 or 100.
- Choose a sunscreen that is water resistant. Whether swimming, getting caught in the rain, or having a water balloon fight, you don’t want your sunscreen to diminish in power due to getting wet.
Does it matter if I spray or lather on sunscreen?
Each method of using sunscreen has different benefits for parts of the body.
- Creams, probably the most common form of sunscreen, are best for use on your face or for dry skin.
- Hairy areas (scalp, men’s chests) are the best areas for gels.
- Stick-based sunscreens are ideal for around your eyes, so that when you sweat, creams don’t get into your eyes.
- Sprays are often preferred by parents since they’re easiest to apply to children. There are also sunscreens made specifically for babies or those with particularly sensitive skin.
Do I need to use sunscreen even when it’s cloudy?
If you are outside for more than a few minutes at a time, you should still be wearing sunscreen. In fact, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can still penetrate your skin, even on cloudy days. Snow, sand, and water also require your need for sunscreen, as they are all reflective surfaces that can intensify the sun’s rays.
How can I best protect myself, aside from sunscreen?
There are several ways, on top of using the proper sunscreen, that can help prevent skin cancer and damage:
- Getting Vitamin D through food and supplements
- Being aware of moles or discoloration on your skin, and having a yearly dermatology screening. Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early.
- Wearing protective clothing when you can, such as a thin, long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and more.
How can I best treat a sunburn?
Let’s say you didn’t use sunscreen enough and you’ve gotten a sunburn. Here are some methods to use to treat it:
- Use cool water or soak in a bath to reduce the heat built up on or under your skin.
- Moisturize your skin to combat the discomfort caused by the dryness a burn will produce. You can also use a hydrocortisone cream.
- Ibuprofen or aspirin can reduce pain, swelling, and redness.
- Since a sunburn takes fluid from the rest of the body and draws it to the skin’s surface, staying hydrated is key. Drink more water than normal to counteract dehydration.
Have any more tips for our Elite community to stay safe in the sun this summer? Leave them in the comments below!