Most of us enjoy lying in the sun in order to achieve that nice, tanned look. We should, however, be aware of the damage sunbathing can cause. Your skin type is an important factor in determining the extent of skin damage you are prone to experience. People with fair skin are more vulnerable to the negative effects of the sun. Darker skin types can also be damaged, but to a lesser extent. Our skin goes darker when we sunbath, due to the skin forming a substance called melanin. Melanin makes our skin darker, but it also serves as the skin’s own sun protection. Because the melanin count in our bodies varies from one individual to the next, some people might sunburn easier than others. People that produce less melanin are normally the ones who burn more easily and who also have a higher risk of contracting skin cancer.
Sunscreens work in various ways and it is difficult to decide which one to use. Some sunscreens have a chemical filter. This means that it penetrates the skin and absorbs the sun’s rays. Therefore it does not reach into the deeper layers of the skin and it also doesn’t cause sun damage. Then we also get sunscreen that has a physical filter. This is one that lays a thin layered membrane on top of the skin, reflecting the sun’s rays.
The most important thing to look for, when purchasing sunscreen, is that it is labeled as a “broad spectrum”. This type of sunscreen provides both UVA and UVB protection. UVB burns the top layer of your skin, causing sunburn and cell damage. UVA, on the other hand, doesn’t burn the top layer of the skin, but penetrates deeper, causing ageing and skin cancer.
Like most beauty products, sunscreen also has a shelf life. Heat and bacteria can have a negative influence on your sunscreen’s effectiveness and it is therefore a good idea to buy a new sunscreen every year. Hopefully you use yours often enough so that it doesn’t last this long! The ideal place to store your sunscreen is the refrigerator. Prolonged exposure to the sun can decrease the protective properties of sunscreen.
Here are some interesting facts:
1. It takes less time to be exposed to the same amount of solar energy at midday, compared to early morning or late evening, because the sun is more intense at midday relative to the other times. UV rays are at their strongest between 12:00 and 16:00.
2. Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against UVA and UVB. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB. SPF — or Sun Protection Factor — is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours.
3. Sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays.
4. Skin burns more quickly at high elevations.
5. Near the equator, the sun’s rays don’t have to travel as far as they do in more northern latitudes to reach the ground, so they deliver more sun-burning UV rays per minute of exposure.
6. Cool and refreshing, water seems like the antidote to sunburn. But its reflectiveness can increase UV intensity by up to 50 percent, leading to both a painful burn and long-term skin damage. In shallow water, the sun’s rays can even reflect off the ocean’s sandy bottom, further increasing UV exposure.
7. Snow is one of the most reflective surfaces out there, bouncing back up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays. That puts skiers and snowboarders in a double burn zone, with damaging ultraviolet rays showering down from above and rebounding from below.
8. You can get serious sun damage even when it’s an overcast day. When the sky is partly cloudy, your risk of sunburn can be even higher than on a clear day, because the clouds act to magnify the overall UV radiation. And while a more even cloud cover will block a significant amount of UVB rays (sunburn) up to 80 percent of the long-spectrum UVA rays (aging, wrinkling and cancer) can get through clouds and fog.
9. While UVB rays are the strongest during summer, UVA rays remain constant throughout the year. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 – 50 times more prevalent, and go through glass, making sun protection necessary indoors, as well as out.
As the December holidays are nearing, it is therefore a good idea to invest in a good broad spectrum sunscreen. Remember to generously apply often in order to minimize the negative effects of being outdoors in the sun.
Enjoy your holiday!