Summer has arrived in New England, and with summer comes more sun! Sunscreen is crucial to your skin’s health at all times, but odds are there’s a lot you don’t know about selecting the best sunscreen.
If you haven’t given your sunscreen selection much thought, you aren’t alone. There’s a lot more to sunscreen than meets the eye, and its ability to prevent skin cancer cannot be overstated. Sunscreen uses active ingredients to prevent harmful ultraviolet radiation from damaging your skin. UVA and UVB radiation is emitted by the sun, along with visible light. UV radiation can damage the DNA in your skin cells. Accumulated sun damage increases the likelihood of that DNA reconfiguring and mutating, forming skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and thousands die of nonmelanoma skin cancer and melanoma each year. Precancers like actinic keratosis, also referred to as solar keratosis, are primarily the result of UV radiation. Precancerous lesions are not only just unsightly—they can become skin cancer. At best, skin cancer can be caught early and treated, possibly leaving behind a scar. In some cases, if left untreated skin cancer can spread to internal organs where the odds of survival are much lower. Though one in five Americans develop skin cancer by age 70, you can take extra steps to keep skin cancer from impacting your life. It all starts with sunscreen.
If you buy sunscreen, you’ll notice a ton of different brands and SPF ratings, and the SPF you need depends on a few factors. For everyday use, SPF 15 is sufficient in protecting your skin from sun damage. In the summer, and whenever you’re outdoors in sunlight for extended periods of time, an SPF of 30 or greater is recommended. SPF, or sun protection factor essentially describes how much time the product affords you. 30 SPF means that you can avoid sun damage for about 30 times longer than if you weren’t using sunscreen. While this might mean you can avoid sun damage and burns for over 2 hours, any sunscreen’s SPF wears off at that mark. Regardless of the strength of your sunscreen, a new layer of sunscreen must be applied every 2 hours to ensure your skin’s fully protected. Speaking of time, it’s actually important to apply sunscreen a full half hour before you go out into the sun.
The fantastic thing about sunscreen is that there’s not really a wrong type of sunscreen, provided it checks a few specific boxes. While there are many brands, strengths and chemicals used in sunscreen, almost all of them will greatly reduce the odds of sun damage if you know how to use them. There are essentially two main types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreen ingredients work by reflecting and scattering UV radiation, preventing it from penetrating the skin. Some common physical sunscreen ingredients include the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The ingredients in chemical sunscreen, like octisalate and avobenzone actually absorb the harmful UV rays, keeping the skin beneath safe from damage. Both of these approaches work to similar results, but some might find that physical ingredients agree better with their sensitive skin.
Regardless of how fast you tan or burn, you need to use sunscreen. If you have more questions about the right sunscreen for your skin, call Northeast Dermatology Associates today.
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