July is here and it’s the month with the highest risk of over exposure to the sun – not just because of the intense sunlight this time of the year, but also because we are typically engaged in more outdoor activities in the summer.
You may already know that sunlight causes 80% of skin aging, and we all know that we need to wear a properly formulated sunscreen to protect our skin. However, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding sunscreen. We’ll try to clear that up.
Sun Protection Factor
First is the question, how much Sun Protection Factor (SPF) do you need? A typical fair skinned person will get a sunburn if exposed to direct sunlight for more than 20 minutes. If you multiply this 20 minutes by the SPF, you’ll get the amount of time you can remain in direct sunlight without getting a sunburn. Therefore, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 would provide 600 minutes or 10 hours of protection (assuming it stays on your skin that long). A higher SPF does not indicate any appreciable additional protection. So the answer: SPF 30 is plenty.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Next there’s the need to protect against all forms of sunlight. Did you know that SPF only relates to the burning rays, also known as UVB? The other form of sunlight is UVA (sometimes called Aging rays). UVA rays do not give you a sunburn, but penetrate deeper into your skin and cause damage to your DNA. So, besides getting a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, you must be sure to get one that says “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB” on the label.
Finally, there’s the question of: what’s in my sunscreen? There are basically two types of active ingredients: chemicals and particulates. Some people prefer particulates (such as micronized titanium dioxide) for two reasons – chemicals can cause skin irritation and may also wash off more readily in water or from perspiring, while particulates are less likely to do so. You also want to be sure you have safe ingredients, so look for sunscreen (and all skin care) that is formulated without any harmful ingredients such as parabens.
SUMMARY: Since sunlight causes 80% of aging, you want a good sunscreen with a SPF of 30, Broad Spectrum or UVA/UVB protection, and made with particulates such as titanium dioxide but without any parabens.