Sunscreens were a kind of underrated thing a while back, but now, people have slowly started realising their importance. These babies are essential if you want to protect your skin from premature aging and sun damage. Contrary to popular belief, sunscreens should not only be applied during a sunny day or for a trip to the beach. They should be applied all year round! This may sound contradictory to what you might have heard before, but keep on reading and you'll definitely understand why.
First things first! Let's talk about the sun and the different types of rays it projects. The sun emits ultra violet A (UVA) and ultra violet B (UVB) rays. Ultra violet radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum of light which reaches the Earth. It is invisible because it's wavelength does not fall into the wavelengths of visible light. However, both UVA and UVB rays are penetrating and they play an imporatant part in premature aging, sun damage, skin cancers and they even have the ability to surpress our immune system!
UVA rays are really penetrating. Even more penetrating than UVB rays. However, UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays. Most of us are exposed to UVA rays for long periods of time our entire lives. It has been found that UVA rays contribute significantly to and may even initiate skin cancer. They are also known for tanning.
UVB rays are the chief cause of skin reddening and sun burn. These rays play a key role in the initiation of skin cancer and a contributary role in photoaging and tanning. The intensity of UVB rays vary with time, season and location. However, these rays aren't very penetrating, as compared to UVA rays.
After reading all of the above, you might be wondering how to protect yourself from these rays. Sunscreen is the answer to all your questions! Sunscreens are usually labelled according to SPF. SPF means sun protection factor and it is a measure of protection from the sun's harmful rays. For example, if your skin normally burns in 20 minutes from the sun, and you start wearing sunscreen of SPF 20, your skin would then burn (20 x 20= 400) 400 minutes or 6.67 hours later. Note that the SPF varies from person to person depending on your skin type, the amount of activity you do, the intensity of sunlight etc.
It should also be noted that the SPF labelled on sunscreens can be misleading sometimes. If a sunscreen mentions UVB protection, but not UVA protection, then this can be a problem as UVA rays can also cause tanning and skin cancer. Make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, instead of one which is for UVA and UVB protection only.
You might ask, what kind of sunscreen is suitable for you? Well, that's up to you really. There are many different kinds out there now but remember one thing, no matter how high of an SPF sunscreen you use, make sure you reapply it atleast every 2 hours if you're going to spend a long day out in the sun. People get a false sense of security when they use sunscreens with higher SPF, but in reality, most of it is rubbed off on clothes, during swimming, during sweating etc. So, if you're heading out to the beach, remember to keep a big bottle of good sunscreen and apply it generously.
I hope you found this post very informative and useful!