Sunscreen & Your Skin Health

Sunscreen and Your Skin Health

Summer is officially here! While we try to soak in the sun and enjoy the sunshine while we can, we have to make sure we pay attention to our skin health as well! The sun itself has plenty of benefits such as Vitamin D and Serotonin release which can make you feel happy, but the damaging effects of UV radiation can be long term and serious.

So, let’s talk sunblock, sunscreen and tanning!

How do the UV rays of the sun affect our skin health?

The UV rays of the sun penetrate deep into the epidermal layer of the skin and injure the skin cells and collagen. Damaged collagen is responsible for premature skin aging, burns the skin layers, and gives a tanned appearance. Scientists say ultraviolet radiation can lead to the development of skin cancer and overexposure to the sunlight damages our skin’s DNA.

Sunlight has the following effects on skin health-

  • Untimely skin photoaging
  • Development of wrinkles, laxity, and brown spots on the skin
  • Expedites the natural aging procedure
  • Reduces the ability of our skin to repair itself
  • Skin cancer or Melanoma

The photoaging procedure worsens with more exposure to sunlight. People with sunbathing habits often show signs of photoaging by 30 years of age.

Sunscreen helps skin protection against the sun’s UV rays. You can get sunscreen, sunblock lotions, creams, sprays, liquids and chap stick even for your lips! Dermatologists suggest the use of sunscreen with a minimum of SPF30 for the best protection. The higher the number of SPF on your sunblock, the better it blocks the sun rays. However, 100% skin protection is never possible with any sunblock.

Some people think you only need sunscreen on a hot, sunny day. However you want to think about UV protection, which can neither be felt nor seen. Therefore, you should use Sunscreen when the UV index is three or higher. This can be tracked online,  even on cool or cloudy days.

Categories of UV exposure

Do you ever wonder how much UV ray exposure is too much for your skin health? Scientists have deduced Index values to categorize UV exposure.

Minimal (0-2): This range indicates that the UV rays cause minimum harm to average human beings.

Low (3-4): This range indicates the risk of skin damage. 45 minutes of exposure can lead to sunburn.

Moderate (5-6): It is the index of a measurable amount of skin damage risk. One experiences sunburn in 30 minutes of exposure. 

High (7-9): Unprotected exposure to sunlight under this category causes a high risk of damage. Only 15 minutes of exposure causes sunburn.

Very High (10+): An exposure index of 10 or more indicates maximum risk. Only 10 minutes of unprotected exposure leads to skin damage and burn.

Benefits of using sunscreen on our skin during the summers

Sunscreen is an essential skin care product year-round, but definitely a necessity for summers. It improves our skin health in the following ways-

  1. It offers a shield from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun
  2. Slows down the procedure of premature skin aging by 24%
  3. Helps in the retention of skin sheen and acts as a protector from skin cancer.
  4. Reduces skin blotchiness, irritation, and red vein eruption.
  5. Protects our skin from sunburns
  6. Prevents skin tanning

Sunscreen needs to be applied liberally, re-applied every two hours (or after swimming, exercising and towel drying) and used in combination with other sun protection measures including sun protective hats, protective clothing, sunglasses and shade.

What do all the sunscreen terms mean?

SPF: The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of a sunscreen is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn. Sunscreens need to be applied liberally to achieve the SPF protection claimed on the label.

Water resistant: Does not come off the skin during swimming or exercise, provided it is not wiped off. While a label may state a sunscreen is ‘four hours water resistant’, sunscreen still needs to be applied every two hours to maintain the same level of protection.

Broad-spectrum: Broad-spectrum sunscreens filter both UVA and UVB rays. UVB is the principal cause of sunburn and UVA is the main cause of wrinkles, thickened and blotchy skin. Both UVA and UVB contribute to increased skin cancer risk.

The ‘+’ sign: The plus sign means ‘more than’. SPF50+ sunscreen must provide at least SPF60 in testing. This is because the same batch of sunscreen will test slightly differently in different laboratories with different methodology. By testing at SPF60, it removes any margin for error. In the previous 1998 standard, some sunscreens labelled SPF30+ actually provided much higher protection but were not allowed to be labelled any higher than 30+. In the new standard, sunscreens can be labelled higher than SPF30+, so the ‘+’ sign after SPF30 is redundant.

Protect your skin and skin health with a good balance of sun protective measures such as sunscreen, shade, and UV protective eyeglasses. Get a good balance of sunlight and protect yourselves against the ultraviolet rays.

If you develop abnormal lesions, growth or masses, be sure to seek medical advice to rule out other complicated conditions or diseases.

Asma Bhaidani