School is out and summer is finally here. It’s time to get out and enjoy the warm weather. Being active outdoors is great for your health, but are you protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays? Sun damage builds up over time, so it’s important to use sunscreen every day. Sunscreen not only lowers cancer risk, but it also prevents dark spots and skin damage.
Sunscreens are barriers which are applied to the skin. They work by absorbing or reflecting the sun’s UV rays away from your skin. Sunscreens come in a wide variety of forms (creams, lotions and sprays) and there are many brands to choose from. Look for the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) logo on products to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the sunscreen. Products with the logo have been specially tested.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures protection against the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. When purchasing a sunscreen, look for a product with a minimum SPF of 30. The product should also contain ingredients that protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays which penetrate more deeply into the skin and are responsible for premature aging, and contribute to the development of skin cancer. Sunscreens that are labeled “broad spectrum” help protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
The 2 types of sunscreen
- Physical sunscreens: contain active mineral ingredients which work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect or block damaging UV rays away from the skin. Common physical sunscreen ingredients include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreens tend to be better tolerated by most skin types because they are not absorbed in the skin, however, they are thicker to apply and tend to leave a white cast after application.
- Chemical sunscreens: contain organic compounds which create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and homosalate. Chemical sunscreens are able to protect the deeper layers of skin and it prevents penetration by the UVB rays responsible for sunburn, however, they tend to rubs off more easily and must be frequently reapplied.
Regardless of which type of sun protection you choose, there are benefits to regular use. Numerous studies that have shown that regular use of sunscreen has anti-aging effects. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers compared skin aging in 903 men and women from Australia over the course of four years. They found individuals that used sunscreen daily, had an undetectable increase in skin aging.
Wearing sunscreen daily not only protects our skin, but keeps us looking young. Remember to apply sunscreen generously and evenly about 20‐30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the active ingredients to bond to your skin. Also, reapply regularly, especially after sweating heavily or swimming.