Sunlight & Sunscreen: What You Need To Know

Spending time, money and effort applying various skincare products can easily be negated by one thing: ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Too often we get caught up in trying to find the best anti aging skincare products but lose track of prevention. As is the case in healthcare, prevention is always the best medicine!

Markers of aging include wrinkles, lines, spots and so on. Various products on the market tend to target these markers through the usage of various ingredients. All of that is great, but what about prevention?

There are different stressors that age the skin which include lifestyle induced cortisol elevations, lack of sleep, and most of all… sunlight! Radiation from the sun is the most damaging thing to the skin. Those sunscreen ads definitely aren’t a joke! The issue is that some people may not be overly concerned with how they look, but what about their health? Sunlight doesn’t just age the skin, it also leads to various skin issues (cancers in particular). This ranges from more controllable cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma all the way to the deadly melanoma.

Now there certainly some positive effects associated with sunlight, even though the sun is the common denominator of every skin issue! In terms of health, sunlight is the biggest source of vitamin D. In terms of aesthetics, sunlight tans the skin which gives some people their desired look. However, vitamin D can just as easily be acquired via supplementation. As for tanning, one must ask the question: Is premature aging and an elevated risk of cancer worth it?

For those who decide to protect themselves from the sun, there are a few things to know:

  1. There are two types of ultraviolet radiation: type A & type B
  2. Type B is blocked effectively by any standard sunscreen whereas type A may not be
  3. Type A causes “silent damage” to the skin, leaving no traces of harm but elevates long term risk of cancer
  4. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against both type A & type B
  5. An appropriate strength for sunscreen is anything over SPF 30
  6. Sunscreen must be reapplied every 2 hours for continued protection

For those who wonder what SPF is, it stands for “sun protection factor”. If the user applies 2mg of sunscreen per every square centimeter of the skin, the SPF would be the fraction of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the skin. For example, a sunscreen that is SPF 50 would allow 1/50th of the ultraviolet to reach the skin.

The take home point from this article is that it is crucial to protect oneself from the sun not only to minimize signs of aging but to prevent long term health risks such as skin cancer.

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