Got Protection?


Sun protection is trickier than it seems. It’s not as simple as slathering on any old sunscreen you find in the back of your medicine cabinet. Sunscreen products come in a vast array of sizes, shapes and SPF’s. There are broad spectrum, waterproof, water resistant, sweat proof, hypoallergenic, and the list goes on. It all can be a tad confusing.

However, armed with a better understanding of sun protection products and application standards, you will be better prepared to guard your skin against skin cancer, and other photo-aging skin issues. So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones from the ravages of the sun? Let’s start with the basics.

Not all sunscreens are created equal


Only around one in five women wear sunscreen on a daily basis; and even if you are one of the few, you may still not be getting sufficient protection.

One of the biggest misconceptions about sunscreen is that the higher the SPF the more protection they offer. Grab a sunscreen with SPF 50 and you’re good for the day. This is not true and may lull people into a false sense of security. SPF factors have a law of diminishing returns. In fact, according to a report published June 2011 in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, most experts agree that after SPF 30, the additional protection is negligible, estimated to be only 1 or 2% higher.

Although SPF ratings are important, the new magic word you should always look for is broad-spectrum. There are two kinds of solar rays: short ones called UVB that cause redness, burning and with prolonged exposure, skin cancer, and long ones called UVA that cause skin cancer and photo-aging of the skin. Broad spectrum means that the product is offering protection against both the short UVB rays and the long UVA rays.

Without broad-spectrum, you’re only being protected from UVB rays. Sunscreens that aren’t broad-spectrum protect against sunburns, but not the dangerous UVA rays that penetrate deep into the skin, some research cites rays penetrating as deep as the subcutaneous fat level, and can cause skin cancer and premature aging.

SPF level doesn't offer insights into UVA protection. Product manufacturers have never before been required to provide labeling information regarding UVA protection. To get the broad spectrum claim, manufacturers will have to show that the amount of UVA protection proportionally increases as the SPF level increases. The product will also need to be SPF 15 or higher.

FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation has mulled over how best to test for UVA protection since 1978. "We were having difficulty arriving scientifically at a standard test method that everyone could use and a way to relay that to the consumers in a way that would be effective," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation. Beginning in June 2012, new sunscreen labels will include a label to show for the first time, how well the product protects users against cancer-causing UVA.

A shot glass a day = 1 ounce


You’d be surprised at how much sunscreen you need to apply to your exposed skin every day. The dermatologist’s rule of thumb is one full shot glass, equivalent to 1 ounce, is needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size. Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. If you are using the recommended amount of sunscreen every day, a bottle should not last you beyond its expiration date. But, sunscreen does lose its efficacy with time, so be sure to always check the expiration date before applying.

The two-hour rule


No sunscreen, waterproof or not, protects your skin all day. Even if you’re on dry land, sunscreen’s protection fades. The general rule is to reapply every two hours, more often if you’re in the water or exercising. Additionally, experts recommend applying your sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow the product to penetrate and bind with the skin.

Wear more than makeup with SPF


By now, it’s clear how important it is to protect your skin from the sun, especially the delicate area of the face, hands and décolleté, which can show signs of photo-aging more quickly than other areas. But how do you add a sunscreen into your makeup routine for the best protection?

A broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 should be applied to clean, dry skin, before any other facial product, according to Dr. Neal Shultz, with An average adult requires ¼ a teaspoon to cover the face. Allow the product to soak into the skin and then apply the rest of your makeup.

Many foundations and moisturizers on the market now have SPF protection. This is a great extra layer of protection when worn with an additional sunscreen. The majority of makeup products with SPF, are not broad spectrum and will not protect you from the highly damaging UVA rays.

SPF numbers do not add up. If your foundation has an SPF of 15 and you apply a sunscreen with SPF 15, you still only have protection of an SPF 15. That is why it is crucial to ensure that the first layer of protection that goes on your skin is a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

To top off your makeup routine, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying compressed powder with a sponge because the powder's particles provide some sun protection, and powder will help keep sunscreen and moisturizer in place.

Finally, do not forget the sensitive area of the lips. Avoid using opaque high gloss lipstick with little pigmentation. Dr. Christine Brown, a dermatologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, reports that shiny lip balms and glosses actually attract the sun's ultraviolet rays to the lips, which can increase your risk of skin cancer. Dr. Brown says you actually increase the light penetration through the lip surface by applying lip balm or gloss to your lips.

Protecting your lips from the sun is as important as protecting your skin. Dr. Brown recommends applying a base of lip sun block of SPF 30 under lipsticks or lip glosses. For extended exposure, you should continue to reapply the sun block to your lips.

Seek additional protection


Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, gloves, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible. Ordinary clothing provides limited sun shield when dry (the tighter the weave, the better) but little or no protection when wet. Special sun-protective clothing is a wise investment for those who accumulate everyday sun exposure and spend excessive time out doors. You can purchase our beautiful sun protective apparel here.

Math Time


Let’s compare a few numbers: The average size sunscreen is 8 oz. To use the dermatologist recommended dosage you will apply 1oz, twice daily. At this use rate, your bottle will last 4 days, or you will be using 7.5 bottles a month. The average cost of sunscreen is $10. $10 x 7.5 bottles = $75 a month. $75 dollars a month x 12 months = $900 a year on sunscreen! Yikes! Someone pass me the sun protective clothing please!

It ALL counts!

Remember that all time outdoors matters towards cumulative sun exposure. As the Skin Cancer Foundation says, "every days exposure counts; you do not have to be actively sunbathing to get a damage dose of the sun".

Take into consideration activities such as driving to work every day, walking to and from your car, home, office, etc that could result in a 1/2 hour of "exposure" per day. Adding this up over the course of a working year, assuming 50 weeks of work, one accrues about 125hours of UV exposure.

Every second, minute, hour, you spend exposed to UVA and UVB rays count towards the damage being done under and on the surface of your skin.

UVA rays penetrate clouds and even tinted glass, so unless you are protected, you are never safe from their assault. "In the western world, drivers and passengers spend a significant part of their lives in cars. In Europe, the figure is 274 hours per person a year, while in the US it is 541 hours a year. Sources: Commerzbank; Roland Berger report"

That’s an additional 541 hours of potential sun exposure and damage. Now, add in the cumulative every day exposure and the average person spends 666 hours exposed to UVA/UVB rays! That’s more than enough reason for all of us to be reaching for our favorite UV protective clothing and bottle of SPF 30, broad spectrum, sunscreen.

"For a long time, the public has needed a clear message about the effectiveness of sunscreen," said Dr. Ronald Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Ultraviolet exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer."

Authors: Mitzi Runyan and Catherine McGrath


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