The Good and the Not-So-Good of the Sun

Sunlight is essential for your body. It helps produce vitamin D and maintains your circadian rhythm and mood. Yet too much sun exposure can also be harmful. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can result in short-term and long-term skin damage. This includes sunburn, age spots, and even skin cancer. Approximately one out of five people in the United States may develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetimes.

About 95% of the UV radiation reaching our skin is ultraviolet A (UVA) light. This type of radiation is primarily responsible for chronic effects such as wrinkling and age spots. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays make up a smaller percentage but have the potential to be even more harmful, as they are the primary cause of sunburns. Both UVA and UVB have the ability to cause skin cancer.

Even with all of these risks, many people still head to the beach and the pool with nothing more than their bathing suits, hoping to get tan. Any prolonged UV light exposure can put you at risk even if it isn’t summer. Whether you are out skiing in the winter with the sun reflected from the snow, or playing with your children at the park, you have the potential to be affected by the sun’s harmful rays.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from these harmful rays? Let’s learn a little more about the two different types of sunscreens that can protect your skin.

There are two different types of sunscreens- mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. The two different types use a different mechanism to filter the UV rays.

Mineral sunscreen – this type of sunscreen sits right on the top of the skin’s surface. It basically acts like a mirror. It deflects and pushes the UV rays away from the skin. Since they block the surface of the skin, they are able to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Mineral sunscreens are effective as soon as they are applied, since it acts as a physical barrier.

Chemical sunscreen – this type of sunscreen absorbs into your skin. They absorb UV rays, change them into heat, and then release that heat from the skin. Chemical sunscreens can take up to 20 mins to be effective. So, you will need to plan your sunscreen application before you go out into the sun.

Next time you go out into the sun, remember the following:

Apply property – apply a solid layer of mineral sunscreen. If you are using a chemical sunscreen, be sure to apply 20 mins before sun exposure.

Don’t focus on SPF – the SPF rating can be very misleading. An SPF rating tells you how long it will take for the sun’s UV radiation to redden your skin. For example, SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin. SPF 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through. It is more effective to apply a low SPF product properly than to rely on a poor application of a higher SPF. No matter the SPF rating the you choose, be sure to apply liberally and often.

Reapply – Every sunscreen wears off. Be sure to apply every two hours.

Don’t Skip – Anytime you are in the sun, you need to apply sunscreen. Skin cancer can affect anyone.

Disclaimer: this information is not a substitute for medical care. As always, you should consult with your doctor or health care provider.

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