Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun in the Sun

As promised, here is some more info about the sun and how to protect yourself before you wreck yourself (well, your skin that is).

First things first, as many of you already know, there are TWO different types of solar rays, UVA and UVB. Both cause skin cancer, but UVA (which is about 95% of the solar radiation that hits us) causes wrinkles, while UVB causes burning. 

Sunscreen protects our skin by either absorbing or reflecting these rays. Now SPF, or Sun Protective Factor, is the amount of UVB(!!) radiation that will cause sunburn with the sunscreen on. Yes, that's right, SPF only is measured with UVB rays, not at all with UVA. Keep that in the back of your head for later.

Now just so you don't think an SPF of 15 means that you can stay out in the sun for 15 hours without burning, the protection you get from sunscreen varies (despite the SPF) because of your skin type, how much you are applying, how much your skin has absorbed, and what you are doing with the sunscreen on (like swimming).  So you really have to schmear yourself good and often for sunscreen to have any effect.

How strong of an SPF should you use? Personally, I think 30. SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UVB (when used correctly), which sounds pretty good to me. You can go above 30 but that only increases by 1 or 2 percent. And remember how SPF is only measured with UVB rays, although both types cause cancer? Make sure you get a sunscreen that is BROAD SPECTRUM - meaning it protects you against both.

Later this week I will go into the controversies as to the types of chemicals are in sunscreen and what you should look out for...

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