Friday, May 30, 2014

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

With summer approaching most people will spend more and more time in the sun. Along with the increasing sunlight comes the danger of sun damage through sun burn or more seriously skin cancer. Statistics show that more than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States every year.

Sunscreens protect the skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun by either scattering the light away from the body or absorbing the rays before they reach the skin. Ultra violet B (UVB) rays are the ones that cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deep into the skin and cause wrinkles. They also increase the skin cancer risk. Some sunscreens only protect against one type of ultraviolet ray. To get protection from both types of rays, choose a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunscreens are rated by a sun protection factor (SPF) which only applies to UVB rays. The SPF is followed by a number, for example fifteen. This means that it will take fifteen times as long to get sunburn when you use the product. A common myth is that the higher the SPF rating on a sunscreen the more sun protection you receive. In fact, the incremental benefit from a higher SPF is not as significant as one would believe. For example an SPF-15 sunscreen is 93% effective but an SPF-30 is not twice as effective it is only 97% effective, only a slight improvement.

For those concerned about added chemicals in skin care products, consumer should seek out a natural sunscreen. Look for certification from the National Products Association. They certify products that contain natural ingredients and limit harmful additives. Natural sunscreens are PBA-free and usually contain the two active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are safe mineral sunscreens. They may also include Vitamin E and natural seed oils like safflower oil and sunflower oil.

Sunscreen should be applied liberally to exposed areas of the skin. If you will be swimming or sweating a lot, look for waterproof brands. Application should be repeated the longer you stay exposed to the sun. Don’t overlook simpler remedies like hats, sunglasses and protective clothing to avoid the dangers of sun exposure.