Sun Safety Basics Everyone Should Know

We hear about sun safety all the time, but do you really understand what it means? All that talk about UVA, UVA, & SPF...WTF, dude, IDK. Actually, I do know - and I'm going to teach you.

{enjoy the view} | sun safety basics everyone should know

I'm a long-time supporter of sun safety and sunless tanning. As a matter of fact, I used to be a moderator on a sunless forum. I have a family history of basal and squamous cell cancer, and my grandfather had melanoma, so when you add that to my blond hair, blue/gray eyes, and fair complexion, you (I) get a higher than normal risk of developing skin cancer.

First, some easy-to-understand definitions:

UVA rays - 95% of the UV (ultraviolet) rays reaching the earth are UVA - they are less intense than UVB rays, but there are a lot more of them. UVA can penetrate glass and clouds. THEY ARE THE MAIN CAUSE OF AGING & WRINKLING, AND CONTRIBUTE TO SKIN CANCER.

UVB rays - the intensity of UVB rays vary with time of day, location, and season. In the US, the largest amount of UVB rays are seen April - October, from 10am - 4pm. UVB does not penetrate glass. THEY ARE THE MAIN CAUSE OF SUNBURN & SKIN CANCER.

SPF - "sun protection factor", or the ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging skin. To figure out approximately how long your sunscreen will protect you, use this formula: Number of minutes it takes for you to burn without sunscreen multiplied by the SPF number of the product. For instance, I burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen. If I apply a sunscreen with 30 SPF, it will protect me for about 300 minutes (10X30), or 5 hours (assuming I'm not in the water or sweating). Keep in mind that this is just an estimate - some people will burn more quickly, and some will be protected all day.

broad-spectrum sunscreen - a broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect against both UVA & UVB rays. You always want to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

physical sunscreen - a sunscreen that contains primarily zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which reflects the rays away from skin

chemical sunscreen - a sunscreen that contains oxybenzone, avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789), or ecamsule (also known as Mexoryl), which absorbs the UV rays before they penetrate the skin. The best sunscreens will contain both a physical and chemical sunscreen.

Okay, now that you're familiar with the terminology, let's discuss products:

What sunscreen should I use? You should always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 15 SPF for daily use and 30 SPF for extended sun exposure. The Skin Cancer Foundation has done all of the work for you. They've tested products, and those products must meet a variety of criteria in order to receive their Seal of Recommendation. (You can read more about that here.) They have a product finder on their site, and all of those products meet their criteria.There are lots of products, from inexpensive drugstore products to extremely pricey high-end products. You can search for Skin Cancer Foundation Recommended Products here.

Now let's talk application.

How much should I apply? You should use approximately 1 oz. (2 TBSP) on your body and a nickel-sized amount on your face.

When should I apply? You should apply sunscreen a half hour before going out. This is so it is absorbed and can fully protect your skin. Ideally, you should wear at least 15 SPF daily and 30 SPF if you're going to be in the sun for an extended period. Why daily? Remember - UVA rays can penetrate clouds and glass!!

{enjoy the view} | sun safety basics

Do I need to reapply? If you are in the sun, you need to reapply every two hours. You also need to reapply after getting out of the water and/or sweating heavily.

sunscreen basics

    How risky is it to NOT practice safe sun? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation "...about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun." They also noted "over the course of a decade, researchers determined that subjects applying sunscreen with an SPF of 16 daily reduced their risk of melanoma by 50 percent." That's pretty significant in my book.

    So what can you do to reduce your risk?

    reduce risk of skin cancer

    Don't forget to look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation on your sun protection products (including sunscreen, sunglasses, umbrellas, & protective clothing):

    Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation

    There are different seals for different products, as you can see here.

    My current favorite daily sunscreen is Neutrogena Dry Touch (they also have a spray) or Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion for my body, and either Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Liquid or Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion for my face. I've been trying all the new products in my Sephora Sun Safety Kit, so I'll be posting reviews on the sunscreens soon!

    So have fun - just remember to practice safe sun!!

    Do you practice safe sun? Do you protect your kids and forget about yourself? What's your favorite sunscreen?

    (Disclaimer: I am not associated with the Skin Cancer Foundation or any of the companies/products mentioned in this post. As always, my opinions are strictly my own, and I'm just sharing!) 

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