Now that the warm weather’s finally upon us, it’s important to remember that while we may love the outdoors, going to the beach and how we look with a tan, there are serious consequences when we get too much sun exposure. Overexposure to the sun causes sunburn, premature aging of the skin, wrinkling, and skin cancer, including melanoma. Here are tips to help you enjoy the outdoors without hurting yourself.
Q: What are the UVs?
There are 3 types of UVs. One we don’t have to worry about is UVC, which our ozone filters out, unless you are in an ozone-depleted area. UVB is the shorter ray because it cannot penetrate through glass. This one gives us the sunburn, and you know right away when you are damaged with UVB. The fairer skin types have less natural UVB protection than someone who is darker. Our melanin content offers some UVB protection.
UVA is often the silent killer, because it takes years to show its silent damage. UVA is what gives skin cancer, sunspots, deep wrinkles, and broken capillaries. UVA can penetrate through glass window, and regardless of cloudy days, it is still very potent. UVA is the longer ray and more dangerous. Darker skin is still very vulnerable to UVA damage.
Q: Should sunscreen be called sunblock?
A: FDA states the topical should be called sunscreen because it lessens the amount of exposure the skin has to the UV. Sunscreen only filters out some UV, and they do not block them altogether.
Q: Why don’t sunscreens give all day protection?
A: When you are producing redness from sun exposure without sunscreen application, it is called Minimal Erythema Dose (MED) from UVB. This is what you would call sunburn. Let’s take a look at SPF and the number. An SPF 15 allows 6.67% UV to get through, and absorbs 93.33%. An SPF 30 allows 3.33% to pass through, while absorbing 96.7%. That is why FDA no longer allows the label of “sunblock.” Trace amounts of UV still penetrate through the barrier application. Depending on sweating, and water exposure, sunscreen protection will wear off. SPF 30 does not offer twice the protection as SPF 15. The slight extra protection percentage only offers more protection from UVA damage therefore SPF30 is ideal. Higher sun protection factor number beyond 50 is misleading. There is only a slight increase in 1-2 percentage of protection.
Q: Are sunscreens waterproof?
A: No, they are not. There is no FDA label for “waterproof, “ however, if the sunscreen remains effective after 40 minutes of exposure to water, then it is called “water-resistant.”
Q: Are there different types of sunscreens?
A: Yes, there are physical forms and chemical forms.
Physical forms of sunscreens made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are earth particulates, which are crushed finely, and they sit in a base to be spread evenly over the skin. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting, or deflecting UV. Physical forms are excellent for sensitive skin, such as rosacea. Due to the nature of the base, it can be too occlusive for oily skin or acne prone skin; therefore, companies have come up with chemical forms of sunscreens. Physical sunscreens may leave a white caste appearance on the skin due to the zinc oxide, and a matte finish. For darker skin, this may not look appealing.
Chemical forms of sunscreens are made with amino benzoic acid (PABA), avobenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, homosalate, menthyl anthranilate, octinoxate (formerly octyl methoxycinnamate), octocrylene, oxybenzone, padimate O, phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid, sulisobenzone, and trolamine salicylate. These are to name just a few that FDA recognized in the United States. Chemical sunscreens work by altering the UV upon contact with the skin. The base is less occlusive, and feels very light weight. This can be more ideal for someone who does not want a heavy application. Chemical sunscreens leave a shiny appearance. For some it may be bothersome, while others like the dewy look.
Q: Is sunscreen a drug?
A: Sunscreens are over-the-counter drugs (OTC), which are regulated by FDA. Manufacturing facilities must register with FDA and are inspected. If companies offer ingredients other than listed by FDA approval, then the company must receive New Drug Approval. This is approved as a company and not as a single listed ingredient.
Q: Why did I burn with SPF30 when I was down south? I normally wear SPF 30 and never burned before?
A: There are certain points to remember regarding SPF. Medication, cloud cover, and altitude can affect the SPF. Reflective surfaces, such as, water, cement, snow, glass can increase the potency of UV hitting the skin.
Q: Is there a proper way to use sunscreen?
A: With physical sunscreens, application can be done right before exposure to the sun. Chemical sunscreens require at least 20 minutes of penetrations before exposure to UV.