6 Important Facts About Sun Protection

Spring has arrived, and the weather is finally starting to warm up. With the change of the seasons comes more vacations and outdoor activities. While these sunny excursions are what make the warmer months great, they also increase your risk of harmful UV exposure.

You’ve heard it before, but sun protection is absolutely essential. Skin cancer is on the rise, and overexposure can also lead to premature aging and discoloration of the skin. Here’s how sun exposure works and the best ways to protect yourself:

- The sun emits a range of light rays composed of different elements: visible rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays, X-rays, radio waves and ultraviolet rays (UV--comprising UVA, UVB and UVC rays). Two-thirds of these rays reach the earth and affect our bodies after being filtered by the atmosphere.

- These rays are beneficial in some ways. They help our bodies produce vitamin D and have an antidepressant effect. However, most people can fulfill their Vitamin D requirements of 600 IU or 15mcg per day with normal daily outdoor activities (approximately 5-30 minutes twice per week.)

- SPF equals the time it will take to burn. The SPF (sun-protection factor) number tells you how much additional time you can stay in the sun before you start to burn. So if your skin would typically start burning after 10 minutes without sunscreen, wearing an SPF of 30 means you can be outside 30 times longer (300 minutes) before your skin burns.

- Expired sunscreen is totally worthless. The formula has disintegrated, so you get zero sun protection. You also risk skin irritation by using an expired product.

- You need to apply sunscreen everywhere. This means that even if you’re wearing pants, you still need sunscreen on your legs. The sun’s rays can penetrate cloth and bathing suits are likely to shift. Apply everywhere and you’ll lower your risk of a sunburn.

- There are options beyond the typically chalky zinc oxide. Not a fan of the white residue? There are lots of new sunscreens that use different formulations or even have bronzing or skin color-matching qualities.