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Sometimes all of the terms used in sunscreen lingo can bring up some questions. Here`s your guide to understanding the sun.
UVA (Ultraviolet A)
Accounts for 95% of the ultraviolet rays that touch the Earth`s surface. They pass through clouds, glass and the epidermis and are the reason why everyone has to wear sun protection all year round – yes, even when you`re sitting right next to the office window or just running errands. They can reach the deepest layers of the skin and cause damage. UVA rays can alter cells in the long term and cause photoaging (change in the orientation of elastin and collagen fibres, causing wrinkles to appear), sun intolerance, pigmentation disorders and the development of skin cancer.
UVB (Ultraviolet B)
Constitutes 5% of the ultraviolet radiation received on the Earth. It has shorter wavelengths than UVA, so it can be stopped by the clouds and glass. But it is very high in energy, thus UVB is responsible for tanning but also causes painful sunburn. UVB tends to damage the epidermis – skin`s outer layer and can cause allergic reactions and skin cancer.
UVC (Ultraviolet C)
Finally something that won`t give you nightmares at night – UVC rays have the shortest wavelengths so they don`t reach us because of the blocking ozone layer. And that`s a relief as UVC is the highest in energy and therefore the most damaging.
SPF (sun protection factor) value indicates the % of UVB rays filtered by the product. EU legislation requires that the level of UVA protection is at least 1/3 of the UVB. Should you choose the highest SPF number in order to stay safe? As it turns out, the difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30 is just few percents. Even more – the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is just 1%! The recommended minimum is SPF 15 but it`s always better to be more cautious and choose more protection by applying a sunscreen with SPF 30.
This means that the sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays (both of them contribute to skin cancer). Your sunscreen should always be broad spectrum!
This means that your sunscreen will remain effective for a certain time frame (usually 40 or 80 minutes) on wet skin. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen!
Use a large shot glass`s worth of protection cream to cover your body to get enough protection. And remember, sunscreens don`t last all day long – sweat, water, friction and UV rays break them down. Physical sunscreens provide longer protection when in direct sun so there`s no need to reapply frequently. Reapplication is needed after towel-drying, physical activities, swimming etc., as it causes the cream layer to come off.
We all have that half-used bottle of sunscreen from last summer somewhere under the bathroom sink so when the new season comes, it feels like we can just toss it in the bag and we`re good to go. Should you take the sunscreen`s expiration date as a suggestion or treat it just as seriously as the date printed on a milk bottle? The second one is the right answer! The old sunscreen won`t protect you properly as with time the chemicals degrade and become less effective. Second, some chemical filters can be quite unstable due to frequent reopening and offer you some unpleasant side effects like irritation. If the sunscreen has been exposed to heat, you should replace it every few months.
We can`t skip the sun completely as it provides much needed vitamin D. In spite of rumours, using sunscreen won`t stop you from getting enough vitamin D. Various studies show that it has a minimal impact on these vitamin levels. Even if you`re vitamin D deficient, you shouldn`t bathe all day or skip sun protection.