The Burning Truth about the Sun and Our Skin

The Burning Truth about the Sun and Our Skin


Sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against skin cancer and skin aging. Our role as skin care professionals is to educate our clients about sun safety, the importance of prevention, and recommend the most effective products to defend their skin against the sun.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen that offers the following:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

In addition to wearing sunscreen, dermatologists recommend taking the following steps to protect your skin and find skin cancer early:

  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet.
  • Water, snow, and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun and can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Seek shade. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Check yourself. If you notice anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist.
  • Avoid soluble fillers. Ingredients such as Avobenzone and Oxybenzone have been linked to skin sensitivities and dermatitis reactions.

Application Basics

You need to apply sunscreen every day if you will be outside. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. Dermatologists recommend 1 ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, to generously coat all skin that will be not be covered by clothing including ears, scalp, and lips. Apply sunscreen on dry skin 15 minutes before going outside and reapply approximately every two hours. 

Sun Protection Time

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a broad spectrum SPF 15 blocks about 93% of the sun’s rays while an SPF 30 blocks 97%-98%. Currently, there is no scientific evidence that indicates using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 can protect you better or longer. It’s also important to know that SPF only applies to UVB rays.  Ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide UVA protection but there’s no standard measurement for how long these ingredients will keep you protected.

The Risk Factors

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth — UVA rays and UVB rays.

  • UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass. 
  • UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.

All ethnicities are susceptible to the effects of sun exposure. Doctors say skin cancer is becoming increasingly common in young people and those with darker skin tones.

The American Cancer Society reports that an estimated 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year. The majority of the cases are basal cell carcinoma which is highly curable, but early detection and prevention is key.

Future Skin Health

There is no safe way to tan. Every time you tan, you damage your skin. As this damage builds, you speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.





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