Summer is in full swing, and with it, unfortunately comes those dreaded sunburns. Learning how to protect yourself from that six billion-year-old star we refer to as the sun, can not only help your skin looking young and vibrant, but can also help your body reap many health benefits. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB rays.
What are the differences in UVA and UVB rays?
UVA rays have a longer light wavelength, and are responsible for 90 to 95% of UV radiation that reach the earth. UVA is present equally throughout the daylight hours and throughout the seasons, and can easily go through clouds and glass. UVA penetrates deeper layers of skin and causes tanning.
UVB rays have a shorter light wavelength, and emit a higher energy of radiation. UVB is strongest between 10AM and 4PM, from the months of April through October and do not significantly penetrate glass. UVB makes up only 5-10% of solar radiation, its high energy damages surface epidermal layers and cause sunburn.
However, both types of UV rays can cause skin cancer and aging because they damage skin cells and change their DNA makeup.
How do I properly apply sunscreen?
Step 1: Put the lotion on 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. This allows the active ingredients in sunscreen enough time to be absorbed into your skin and offer you best protection.
Step 2: Squeeze out an ounce, equivalent to the amount to almost fill a shot glass. That will keep an average-size adult protected from the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays. Coat your body in a thin, even layer. There is no need to soak your skin in sunscreen, as it will likely be easily rubbed off.
Step 3: Apply it all over your body. It is a good idea to also apply to areas of your body that could be exposed temporarily to sunlight, such as just below a swimsuit line due to activity. Make sure your legs and upper back are covered, as melanoma most often occurs on these body areas in women.
Step 4: Be gentle to your face. It’s acceptable to use the same product you use for your body, however if your face is easily prone to acne, look for a sunscreen specifically designed to prevent blemishes.
How often should I apply sunscreen?
One of the most common questions asked in regards to number of times sunscreen needs to be applied is whether an application early in the day is still working in the late afternoon, following a day mostly indoors. Active ingredients in sunscreen break down in response to direct exposure to daylight, not by the passage of time. So, on an average day indoors, your morning application of sunscreen is still going to provide some UV protection on your way home. This assumes you applied a sufficient amount in the morning, and that you have a schedule and job that keep you indoors and out of the sun for the majority of the day. If you spend the majority of your day outdoors, then the recommendation is to reapply every two hours, particularly if you are sweating or swimming.
Using these tips will help your health in the future, and keep your skin looking fresh, beautiful, and healthy in the present!