Sun Protection 101
The best way to get that attractive glow to your skin is through eating colorful, nutritious foods and not from damaging UV light. The pigments in colorful produce transfer to skin to give it a healthy, radiant appearance. How exactly should you apply sunscreen and what should you look for in a sunscreen – it can get quite overwhelming
All Sunscreens are Not Created Equal:
Let’s first take a look at the two most common types of ultraviolet (UV) rays – UVA and UVB. While both rays can harm the skin and lead to skin cancers, UVB rays are the “burning” rays effectively blocked by glass. UVA rays are deeper-penetrating, “aging” rays that can pass through glass and lead to collagen damage, wrinkles and sagging.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates how long it will take for the UVB rays to burn skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to burn without the product. For instance, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without sunscreen. Higher SPF products do not give proportionate protection –a properly applied SPF 15 screens 93 percent of UVB rays, an SPF 30 screens 97 percent, and an SPF 50 screens 98 percent. So, an SPF 30 product applied properly will block about as much UVB as any higher SPF product.
While SPF rating indicates how well a product will protect the skin from UVB, there is no current rating system for UVA protection. There are currently 17 active ingredients approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens. Some provide a physical barrier, using minerals, while others provide a chemical barrier that works by absorbing ultraviolet radiation. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV radiation before it penetrates the skin. Unfortunately, the longer you are in the sun and heat, the more quickly these chemicals break down, becoming ineffective. They also do a poor job at blocking the UVA rays. Plus, no one really knows the long-term effects of these chemicals so they are best to completely avoid. Alternatively, physical sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are insoluble particles that effectively reflect both UVA and UVB away from the skin. The effectiveness of these products relies solely on how thickly they are applied. When applied properly, they are excellent at blocking the entire spectrum of both UVA and UVB rays.
Since most sun damage occurs during the cumulative effect of UV exposure during daily activities, apply a physical sunscreen daily first thing every morning. Think about it – if you don’t need a flashlight outside, the UV radiation is lighting up the sky (and your skin)! Most people who don’t plan on spending any time outside actually spend 20-30 minutes daily walking to and from their car, home, or office. This adds up to hundreds of hours per year of sun exposure. Would you go to the beach for 100 hours without protecting your skin?
What is the best way to apply sunscreen? I recommend applying first to the outer part of your cheeks, neck, and chest and then rub inward to cover the central part of your face. Most people mistakenly apply sunscreen first to the central part of their face and forget the hairline, neck, and chest. The lateral part of the cheeks also tends to have the thinnest layer when spreading outward. Apply sunscreen after all nourishing active skin care is absorbed.
Since we know that UVA penetrates through windows, sunscreen is mandatory even if you work indoors. Do this everyday before leaving the house, and they key is finding a product you like so you will actually use it. The difference between a cheap product found at the drug store and a more expensive product (assuming both are spf30+ with zinc oxide) is the cosmetic elegance and the “feel” on your skin.
Summer Skin Survival Pearls:
Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 containing zinc oxide and apply generously daily. Wear a hat and sunglasses when outdoors.
Avoid tanning salons to keep skin dewy, glowing, and unblemished.
Hydrate, enjoy healthy fats containing omega-3 fatty acids, and choose a rainbow of colorful foods to brighten your complexion and protect your skin internally.
Avoid processed foods and sugars, as these will make your skin dehydrated and sallow.
Like any nutrition or exercise plan, it is your commitment to the little daily rituals that will make a huge difference over time.