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Simple Guide to SPF, UVA, UVB

Sun Protector for your Skin

by Laura Chacon-Garbato

Pursuing the perfect tan might seem like a great idea when we are in our twenties, but as we get older, the perfect tan and unprotected sun exposure can take a toll on our skin. We must learn how to take care of it every day to ensure glowing, more youthful looking skin throughout the years.

When it comes to protecting your body from the sun, it’s important to understand why sun protection is a must, regardless of your age or the time of the year.

To protect your skin, you need to be conscientious of the damaging UVA and UVB rays of the sun. We often see these acronyms on our skin care products, cosmetics and clothing, but do you know what they mean?

  • SPF = Sun Protection Factor
  • UVA = Ultra Violet A (long wave)
  • UVB = Ultra Violet B (short wave)

 

UVA and UVB are two very different types of radiation that can damage your skin. To make it simple, remember UVA – A for Aging, as these are the rays that age your skin. And think UVB – B for Burning, as these are the rays that burn your skin.

UVA rays cause skin aging

UVA rays are responsible for skin aging and wrinkling and can contribute to skin cancer. Because UVA rays pass easily through the ozone layer, they make up the majority of sun exposure. UVA rays can pass through clouds, glass and even some clothing. You might not be able to feel them, but they will affect your skin.

UVB rays cause sunburn

UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and cataracts, and they can affect the immune system. Most importantly, UVB rays also contribute to skin cancer.

SPF lets you know how long you can stay in the sun

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) found in our sunscreen products gives you an idea of how long you can stay in the sun before your skin starts to get red. And everybody is different. SPF only applies to the UVB rays. It does not apply to the UVA rays. SPF products come in various levels, including SPF 15, SPF 30, SPF 50 and more. Here’s how they work: let’s say that your skin will start to redden when exposed to the sun in just ten minutes. You would take that ten minutes and multiply it by the SPF number you’re using.

For example, if you’re using an SPF 30 product:

–  10 minutes x 30 (SPF) = 300 minutes
–  Take the 300 minutes and divide by 60 minutes, which equals 1 hour
–  300 minutes / 60 minutes = 5
–  The result: around 5 hours of standard sun protection

If you’re at the beach or in direct sunshine for extended periods, always be cautious with sunscreen and your chosen sun protection factor. It’s important to not have a false sense of security when it comes to your sunscreen. Many products are not water resistant, so you wouldn’t be able to rely on five hours of protection if you’re swimming or exercising. Also, most sunscreens are intended for normal, everyday sun exposure, not a full day in direct sun. At the beach or while exercising in the sun, you should consider a stronger sunscreen than usual. And as always: apply, apply and reapply.

Top 10 sunscreen tips

1. Always apply sunscreen, whatever the season.
2. When purchasing sunscreen products, always look for “broad spectrum protection” on the label to ensure you are protected against both UVA and UVB rays
3. The proper amount of sunscreen for your body is about 1 oz. (or 30ml), which is just enough to fill a shot glass. You need a teaspoon (5 grams) of sunscreen just for your face.
4. Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 20 minutes before going into the sun. If your skin is already red from the sun, the damage has already started.
5. It’s important to protect every exposed area of the skin, including your ears and any bald spots; and wear protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats
6. Wear sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection. Not only can your eyelids burn but exposure to the UVB rays can lead to cataracts.
7. Don’t think you’re protected in your car or looking out a window. The sun’s rays can penetrate glass, so protect yourself even if you’re not in direct sunlight.
8. Make a habit of reapplying sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.
9. Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day and seek the shade as much as possible.
10. If you simply have to have a tan, use self-tanner. (But remember to wear sunscreen, too.)

Unprotected sun exposure is the leading culprit in skin aging and skin cancer. We must protect ourselves each and every day––while looking fabulous, of course.

Sunscreen Myths and Facts

Sunscreen Myths and Facts

by Laura Chacon-Garbato

There’s plenty of inaccurate information about using sunscreen. So, let’s clear it up now.

We hear a lot about the importance of wearing sunscreen. It’s been drilled into our heads that without it our skin will burn, we’ll experience signs of aging and, of course, place ourselves at risk of getting skin cancer. There isn’t a dermatologist, beauty magazine or skincare TV commercial these days that doesn’t tout the importance of wearing sunscreen or other protective products. SPF products seem to come in all forms, from clothing to cosmetics. But everything we read isn’t necessarily true. Let’s break down some common sunscreen myths and get the facts straight once and for all.

Sunscreen Myth #1: People with dark skin don’t need sunscreen

No matter how dark- or light-skinned you are, sunscreen is important. Everyone’s skin is subject to burning, premature aging or developing skin cancer when left unprotected. Don’t believe for a second that if you have dark skin you can skip the sunscreen. Everyone, regardless of their skin color, should wear sunscreen on a regular basis.

Sunscreen Myth #2: You don’t need to apply sunscreen if it’s in your makeup

I used to get very excited at the idea of having my sunscreen needs covered by my makeup. Talk about being lulled into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, what I learned was the opposite. Foundations, blush and bronzing powders all seem to contain SPF these days, but it isn’t enough. Makeup with SPF is usually applied unevenly. Think about the quick dusting of blush or the little dab of foundation we often apply. It’s simply not enough coverage to offer appropriate protection. While it’s a nice, added benefit for those areas that need ample coverage, it’s very important to double-up on your protection and use a sunscreen as well. Opt for a daily moisturizer with SPF 30. You’ll get added moisture and protection in one easy step.

Sunscreen Myth #3: You don’t need to reapply “waterproof” sunscreen

The FDA guidelines for sunscreens have become more stringent over time. The newest regulations prohibit companies from using the term “waterproof” on their sunscreen products. The appropriate labeling is “water resistant.” With the term water resistant, companies must now designate whether the product is protective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes,. You must reapply at least every two hours, and even more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating. It’s easy to forget about reapplication when you’re having fun at the beach or pool. Keep your sunscreen in a visible place so it doesn’t go unnoticed. If you just can’t seem to make it happen, set an alarm on your phone or other mobile device. My sunscreen may be tucked away in my beach bag, but my phone is never far from sight.

Sunscreen Myth #4: You only need sunscreen for certain areas of the body

If you have skin that’s exposed, it needs sunscreen. This includes your feet, ears, back, arms, legs and neck. If it’s an exposed body part, it needs protection. I’m always most concerned about my face, because I want to keep those fine lines and wrinkles at bay. But after close inspection of my body, I had a very rude awakening. My shoulders have many dark spots on them, as does my cleavage area. Even my legs are riddled with sun damage, due to my youthful sunscreen neglect in pursuit of the perfect tan. I have become obsessive about the backs of my hands and now keep sunscreen in the cup holder in my car. If it can be seen, it needs sunscreen.

Sunscreen Myth #5: Adult sunscreens are not as protective as those made for children

Sunscreens contain the same active ingredients whether they’re for kids or adults. If you’re looking at two products labeled with the same sun protection factor, whether for kids or adults, the protection is about the same. There are different types of formulations, however, and many sunscreens made for children have been developed for more sensitive skin. They can be fragrance-free, chemical-free, paraben-free and more. Also, many products for kids are tear-free to avoid any stinging of the eyes. Otherwise, the SPF number is pretty reliable.

Sunscreen Myth #6: Sunscreen has an endless summer

If you have a leftover bottle of sunscreen from the previous year, do yourself a favor and throw it away. If you’re using sunscreen every day, you won’t ever have leftover product. A good rule of thumb is to not treat your sunscreen as a seasonal product, but realize its importance year-round. Always check the expiration dates on your bottles. The dates can be found on the label or embossed on the crimped edge of a tube. Nothing lasts forever, and sunscreens will lose their effectiveness over time. Pay attention to expiration dates, and make sure you’re slathering on something that will actually protect your skin.