when it’s not raining it’s sunny and If the scorching sun doesn’t constantly remind you to use sunscreen, I don’t know what will, sometimes its hell on earth. But why is sunscreen important? Sunscreen protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB, UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. It’s very easy to see and feel the effects of UVB rays. UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate deeper into the skin.
These rays can lead to long-term effects like wrinkling, premature aging, moles, sagging skin and other skin damage but diligent use of sunscreen can also slow or temporarily prevent these development.
However, many sunscreens do not block UVA (UVA) radiation, yet protection from UVA has been shown to be important for the prevention of skin cancer. To provide a better indication of their ability to protect against skin cancer and other diseases associated with UVA radiation, the use of broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreens has been recommended.
What is sunscreen?
Sunscreen, also known as sunblock, or suntan lotion, is a lotion spray, gel, foam, stick or in other form that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) radiation and thus helps protect against sunburn. You’ve got to wear sunscreen every day of the year, come rain or shine. “Ultraviolet rays that are the cause of sun damage and skin cancer are always present,” explains Dr. Shilesh Iyer, M.D., a Board Certified dermatologist with the renowned New York Dermatologist group, “They are independent of cold or hot weather, and are not blocked by clouds. On overcast days, only visible rays (but not UVB rays) from the sun are blocked. The best way to protect the skin is with sun protection.”
If you’ve ever wondered what the SPF number on your sunscreen bottle means, Sunscreens are commonly rated and labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF) that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. SPF ratings start at 2 and can reach as high as 70 For example, “SPF 15” means that 1⁄15 of the burning radiation reaches the skin through the recommended thickness of sunscreen. Other rating systems indicate the degree of protection from non-burning UVA radiation. Sunscreens are designed to remain effective at original strength for up to three years, and are typically of doubtful value after that period, applying sunscreen daily drastically decreases your chances of getting skin cancer.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends purchasing a sunscreen that is broad spectrum, SPF 30 or higher, and waterproof. A sunscreen’s SPF (sun protection factor) determines the percentage of UV rays it will block. SPF 30 will provide more than adequate coverage – it blocks up to 96% of the sun’s rays, and protection only increases minimally with higher SPFs.
So how does sunblock work?
Sunblock creates a shield to prevent UVA and UVB rays from reaching the skin and keep it safe from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Most products do this by absorbing, scattering or reflecting the light. SPF measures a sunscreen’s effect against UVB rays and the amount of time you can be in the sun before burning. If, for example, you burn after ten minutes of sun exposure without any cream, an SPF of 15 will allow you to stay in the sun for up to 150 minutes without burning. SPF 75 means you have stronger protection for a longer period of time. So higher SPF means the sunscreen has higher protection, and that you can stay out in the sun for a proportionately longer time without burning. Remember, though, skin damage from sunlight builds up with continued exposure, regardless of whether or not sunburn occurs.
The earth has a natural shield, too: the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects the planet from most of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, the ozone layer is not as thick as it once was. This means we have less natural protection from UVA and UVB rays. In fact, using sunscreen is more important today than it ever was before.
Sunscreen and the face
Is sunscreen good for your face? Of course! Sunscreen all over the body is important, but the face is particularly susceptible to wrinkles and premature aging. No one wants to look older than they are, and sunscreen plays an essential role in anti-aging. Keep in mind that the importance of sunscreen on face isn’t just cosmetic, it’s essential for good health and it’s just as important to wear sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin. This includes your forearms, tops of hands, ears and tops of feet. These areas are some of the most vulnerable, as we often forget to cover up.
It is important to make sure you’re using it properly, before you apply, be sure to check the label. Most sunscreens are marked with an expiration date. After this time, the sunscreen won’t be as effective. It’s best to apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure so the SPF has time to bind to the skin.
To be sure you’re getting the full coverage the label is advertising, you’ll need to put on a thick layer. Most people do not apply nearly as much as they should, researchers advice to apply approximately one ounce of sunscreen to get the full coverage, then reapply every two hours, reapply even more frequently if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
It’s also important to note that some SPF sunscreens are water-resistant, and fare better with a day on the beach, while others will wash off upon contact with water. Either way, you’re safest when you reapply consistently while out in the sun.
Not sure exactly what to look for when selecting a sunscreen?
Iyer says to keep the following four things in mind.
Broad spectrum: Sunscreens should be labeled as broad spectrum, which means the product will cover shield against UVA and UVB rays.
Water resistant: This indicates that the product will protect the skin in water for a specified duration of time.
Sun protection factor (SPF): This numerical factor provides information on the level of protection provided. A minimum of SPF 15 or 30 is recommended for everyday wear. When in the sun, it’s important to reapply sunscreen to exposed areas every 90 to 120 minutes, or as the product label indicates.
Other skincare options?
There are a number of measures you can take in addition to wearing sunscreen.
- Wear protective clothing. Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants. Keep in mind that some garments (especially light-colored articles of clothing) have less UV protection than others.
- Sit in the shade. Choosing a seat in the shade offers added protection from the sun. Bring an umbrella or choose a shady spot. Keep in mind that not all umbrellas have high SPF, so you’ll need to wear sunscreen, too.
- Wear a hat. To get optimal protection, choose a hat with a brim that goes all the way around. A hat with a tighter knit offers better sun protection.
- Stay out of the sun in peak hours. The sun’s rays are strongest from 10AM to 4PM, It’s best to limit your exposure during these hours.
- Wear sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy. UVA and UVB rays piece through clouds, so there are more harmful rays than you think. Be sure to remind yourself to reapply every two hours! Your skin will thank you.
Sunscreen is important for everyone. While light-skinned people are more at risk, skin cancer can affect anyone, even if you have darker skin or tan rather than burn, skin cancer is non-discriminatory and can be diagnosed for any age, gender, or skin type. No matter the shade of their skin make sure you’re giving your skin the protection it deserves for the future.
What sunscreen does?
- It decreases your risk of developing deadly cancer.
- It keeps you looking young
- Sunscreen keeps your skin tone even.
- Sunscreen protects you from more than sunburn
and oh yes!, you need sunscreen as a Nigerian so choose a product that will be easy for you to use and re-use often. Both male and female should consider investing in sunscreen products.