You should always protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing a decent sunscreen. Sunscreens contain active ingredients which effectively absorb the sun’s rays before reaching your skin. These lotions and creams are available in different levels of protection and nowadays are also part of many cosmetic products which help to protect us.
The strength of a sunscreen is measured by its SPF (“sun protection factor”). The SPF indicates how long the sunscreen will prevent your skin from burning in the sun compared to how long it would take without any protection. For example: If you wear SPF15 sunscreen, you will be able to stay out in the sun 15 times longer without burning. So in effect, if you normally start to redden after 10 minutes in the sun, SPF15 sunscreen will allow you to stay in the sun for 150 minutes without burning.
SPF15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB rays when you apply the cream or lotion at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. You should re-apply every 2 hours and if you are swimming, apply more of the sunscreen after each bathing session.
It’s also important to remember that SPF only measures the resistance to UVB rays and at present there is no evidence to indicate how effective a sunscreen protects against UVA. Most sunscreens do provide at least some protection against UVA rays especially those advertised as broad spectrum protection creams.
When using sunscreens check the shelf-life of the product as most of them will only be effective between 3-4 years and this can also be compromised if exposed to extreme heat.
Even though sunscreen is essential it doesn’t provide 100% protection so you should cover-up with clothing and sunglasses especially during the day between 11am-4pm when the sun is at its hottest.
Sunscreens and its Ingredients
Not all sunscreens are very effective so you should look out for essential ingredients as follows:
For UVB protection:
- Octyl methoxycinnamate;
- octylmethyl cinnamate;
- para-aminobenzoic acid;
- padimate O and
For UVA protection:
- Oxybenzone and
Sunblock protection is different to sunscreen protection as it provides a physical barrier against harmful rays rather than absorbing them. For many years sunblock had its drawbacks because after application it appeared on the skin as a visible white paste and this was something that a lot of people may have wanted to avoid especially during day-to-day living. Nowadays the formulation of sunblock has much improved and even though when it is first applied it does resemble a white, chalky texture it does disappear after it is smoothed onto the skin.
The benefits of sunblock are great especially for those who have very sensitive skin and burn easily or those who spend a great deal of time outdoors.
Sunblock can also be expensive but it is worth investing in some and using it more sparingly by applying to areas such as the face, neck, ears and the backs of the hands; those areas of the body which have greater exposure to hot sun.
Other Sun Protection Creams
Antioxidant creams are also worth using. Although they don’t block out the sun like sunblock creams they can help to minimize sun damage by stimulating skin repairing enzymes and neutralizing free radicals. Antioxidant creams which contain vitamin C, vitamin E, copper and co-enzyme Q10 or products which are formulated from green tea extracts are the best ones.
Vitamin C helps to prevent sun damage which can lead to skin cancer and natural vitamin E in the form of d-alpha tocopherol can also help to prevent UV damage. These vitamins can provide serious protection for your skin when used as a combination in sun protection creams and they can also provide protection if taken orally as a supplement to your diet.
So sunscreens and sunblocks should definitely be considered especially if you intend to go out in the sun for any prolonged period of time and should preferably be part of your every day skin care products to provide ultimate protection against the harmful rays from the sun.
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