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Sunscreen - Separating Fact From Fiction

With the sun about to be — thankfully — a much bigger part of our daily lives, we here at GLOW Surgical Arts thought it might be a good time to play a little bit of fact or fiction. The sunscreen edition!

So! Fact or fiction?

The higher the SPF, the better: First, just in case, SPF is sun protection factor. The automatic assumption then, of course, is there is no such thing as too much SPF. The higher that number, the more protection you get, the less worrying you need to do. Except, there’s more to it. It’s true that a sky-high SPF will offer slightly better protection against a horrible sunburn than, say, a quite common SPF 30. However, the higher SPF will not necessarily offer great protection against more deeply penetrating ultraviolet (UV) A radiation, also known as aging rays. photodune-7205314-girl-putting-sun-protection-cream-on-beach-chair-xs_(1)UV radiation reaches us in the form of both UVA and UVB rays. SPF mainly deals with UVB (an SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation, while SPF 30 blocks 97 percent). The difference in UVA protection between those same SPFs, however, is minimal. Assuming, then, that all one needs to be worried about when choosing a sunscreen is SPF is dangerous. FICTION.

Apply sunscreen once a day and you’re safe: It’s not an uncommon attitude that once you apply sunscreen in the morning, you’re covered for the day. Of course, if you actually try that and spend all day out in the sun, well, you likely already learned that lesson. Here’s the reality: sunscreen only lasts about two hours after application. The rule of thumb should be more along the lines of this: apply around 30 minutes before you’ll be exposed to the sun (to allow the ingredients to fully bind with your skin), and then reapply that same amount every two hours. FICTION.

Children need even more protection from the sun than you do: Take it even one step further, as children under six months of age shouldn’t even be exposed to the sun, period. And, of course, kids don’t know as much as you do, so it’s your job to make sure they’re protected! After all, even people in their 20s can develop skin cancer. Instill good sun protection habits in your kids while they’re young. If your kids have moles on their skin, fair skin and hair, or even just a family history of skin cancer, it’s especially crucial to eliminate unprotected sun exposure for them. FACT.

You should be applying 2-3 ounces of sunscreen: “A little dab will do you” is not the approach to be taking here. It’ll bug cheapskates, but the reality is that a long day at the beach should mean anywhere from one quarter to one half of an 8 ounce bottle of sunscreen. Per person. Precise amounts will obviously vary from person to person, as it’s a matter of how much area you’re covering (a 250 pound man will need more sunscreen than a 110 pound woman, for instance). In general, though, assume that each application should use around a shot glass’ worth of sunscreen. FACT.

You don’t need sunscreen if you’ve got the pill! Sunscreen pills do exist. It shouldn’t surprise, though, that they are incapable of providing sun protection to your skin in any meaningful way. In fact, they only really have any benefits for your skin in terms of sun protection when used in conjunction with sunscreen. FICTION.

There are laundry additives to increase the sun protection of your clothes.Yes, this is a product that exists, too. And they even work. Even lighter summer materials like cotton and linen can keep harmful rays from reaching the skin if they’re infused with UV-protective products. However, what hasn’t changed is this: a dark shirt with a tight weave and a good hat is still the safest clothing approach to sun safety. UV-protective laundry additives are fine to use as an additional tool, but it’s probably wise to not over commit to them as a replacement for foolproof things like sleeves! FACT.

Last year’s sunscreen is still good. You might have noticed your sunscreen bottle does have an expiration date on it. Even if you’re not a big believer in expiration dates, in this case, that date matters. Sunscreen’s active ingredients deteriorate over time, which means the sun protection the sunscreen offers deteriorates as well. Storage conditions matter, too. Chances are, to be safe, you’ll want to refresh your sunscreen supply on an annual basis. FICTION.

Some clothing offers a viable alternative to sunscreen. It’s a matter of comfort, really. But, yes, clothing can be your sunblock. If you’re able and willing to wear long sleeves and the type of clothing that quite literally covers your skin in the sun — you’re protected. Of course, when it’s hot out and sunny… shorts and flip-flops become enticing. For the record, shorts and flip-flops do not offer any sort of sun protection. FACT.

A final fact, sun damage is one of the biggest contributors to how old our faces look. Consistent use of a high quality sunscreen will limit sun damage and keep you looking younger, longer. Of course there is always Botox and facial laser treatments to help turn back the clock, but we have all heard about an ounce of prevention.

May’s flowers are almost here after all those April showers. The sun is coming. It’s the opposite of what the Starks say in Game of Thrones, because summer is coming! Enjoy the sunshine. Just do it responsibly and safely. Your skin will thank you!