Organic Solutions for Sun Protection
Coming into the summer months means longer, sunshine filled days. People tend to spend more time outdoors and everyone feels great with a sun-kissed tan. Although this added time out in the sunshine may make you feel better, without proper sun protection you can do major damage to your skin. In order to make the right choices about sunscreen and the protection you require, it is important to understand how it all works.
There are two ultraviolet light rays you need to protect yourself against: UVA and UVB. UVA rays, or long-wave rays account for about 95% of the ultraviolet light that hits the Earth’s surface. These rays are the same strength year-round and can pierce glass, clothing, fabric, and much more. The UVA rays go through the epidermis or top layer of the skin and enter the dermis which is composed of collagen and elastin fibers. UVA rays contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin which in turn leads to aging of the skin, not to mention it can significantly contribute to skin.
The melanin or pigment in the skin is what is responsible for the tan you get from being out in the sun. When you get a tan, your body is actually responding to the ultraviolet rays by darkening in order to protect itself from further damage. UVB rays are the main rays responsible for tans, sunburns, and skin reddening. These rays damage the more superficial layer of the skin or epidermis. When the sun is closer to the earth’s surface, we receive more UVB rays. Therefore, in the summer months these rays are much stronger and more plentiful. UVB rays mimic the melanocyte cells to create more melanin which in turn can cause freckles, hyper pigmentation, age spots, and a myriad of other discoloration. UVB rays are also the main contributor to skin cancer.
So you may be asking, what I can do to protect myself? When we talk about SPF protection, people assume that the SPF number indicates the amount of protection they are receiving. This is not necessarily true. The SPF number is saying how long it will take for the UVB rays to burn or redden the skin when using it. For example, a person who will normally burn in 20 minutes without protection will be able to be exposed for 300 minutes without burning when using an SPF 15 (Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number). An SPF provides that extra time by blocking a certain percentage of ultraviolet rays. A sunscreen with SPF 50 protects against 98% of UVB rays, a SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays, and a SPF 15 protects against 93% of UVB rays.
It is important that when deciding on a sunscreen you make sure it has high-quality protection for both UVB and UVA rays. Both have very damaging affects for skin and health. Most sunscreens offer good protection from the UVB rays but inadequate protection from UVA. When purchasing, make sure the sunscreen offers full spectrum protection. These include additional ingredients for UVA protection such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mexoryl, oxybenzone, and avobenzone, to name just a few.
Some people believe that many of the chemical ingredients that protect against UVA rays, such as avobenzone, mexoryl, and oxybenzone, may actually be more harmful than helpful. Therefore, many are turning towards moremeans for protection. If you decide to purchase a more sunscreen, be sure to look for one with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in order to receive adequate UVA protection.
Some other skin protecting measures to keep in mind during the summer include: Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside, reapplying every hour, wearing eye protection and hats, buying waterproof/resistant sunscreen to ensure protection even when sweating or swimming, and making certain you apply to the typically neglected area (ears, feet, neck). Additionally, it is vital to the long term health of your skin to apply sunscreen even if you are not “laying out” to tan. If you follow these rules this summer you can ensure protection for your skin and health while still enjoying the outdoors.
Authored By: Rachel Levinsky, Licensed Esthetician