Summer is upon us and the most important product you need is.... (drumroll).... SUNSCREEN! With the abundance of information regarding sunscreen, I thought it would be helpful to answer some of the most asked questions. Read through these Q&A's and prepare to protect your largest organ all summer long.
Q: What does SPF mean?
A: SPF stands for “sun protection factor”. Unfortunately SPF only takes into account UVB rays and does not address UVA rays. Which leads to the next question...
Q: What's the difference between UVB and UVA rays?
A: The UV in both stands for ultraviolet light, the difference lies in the last letter. The easiest way to remember the difference is that UVB equals 'burning" while UVA equals 'aging". UVB rays cause most harm to the top layer of skin. The layer that burns while in the sun. UVA rays go beyond the top layer penetrating much deeper. Both are dangerous and when choosing a sunscreen you need to make sure you're protecting your skin from both.
Q: How much SPF is enough?
A: SPF essentially represents how many more times skin can stay in the sun before it burns (protection from UVB rays). Its a simple math equation, for example, lets say it takes you 10 minutes to burn. SPF30 will allow you to stay in the sun 30 times longer e.g. 300 minutes or 5 hours. Another factor to keep in mind is that SPF 15 absorbs 93% of UVB, SPF 30 absorbs 97%, and SPF 50 absorbs 98% if applied evenly and frequently. In general, it's recommended to choose products with SPF 30 to 50, making sure it also comes with sufficient UVA protection.
Q: Whats the difference between chemical, physical, and mineral sunscreens?
A: Think of physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, as acting like a mirror, reflecting UV light before it enters the skin. They provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun's rays. Chemical sunscreens actually absorb the UV light before it reaches the skin. They work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Both sunscreen types work effectively at protecting you from harmful UV rays.
Q: How much and how often should sunscreen be applied?
A: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should use at least one teaspoon of sunscreen on your face. Research shows that people typically apply less than the recommended amount. Also sunscreen should be reapplied after two hours of sun exposure and right after swimming or excessive sweating.
Q: Should sunscreen be applied before or after moisturizer?
A: After moisturizer is most effective. You can also use a moisturizer with SPF included.
Q: Are moisturizers and foundations with SPF effective?
A: Technically products with SPF offer the same protection as sunscreen. The efficacy factor is that most of these products only offer UVB protection and not UVA. The other issue is that it is unlikely that a person would reapply the moisturizer or foundation at the correct rate as you would a sunscreen.
Q: Is sunscreen needed during Winter months?
A: It's recommended that sunscreen be worn year round. UVA rays do not fluctuate as much as UVB rays do but they are still damaging to the skin. Any level of incidental sun exposure are contributing to skin damage including premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer.