Everyone loves a holiday in the sun or nice day sun bathing in the park. It feels good and is in fact necessary in order to receive proper amounts of Vitamin D. However, there is a safe way to achieve a little sun without over burdening the body with excess free-radical damage and Ultra Violet (UV) radiation. UVA has been found to cause premature ageing and are present all the time, even when cloudy. UVB causes burning and is present on sunny days. The following explains the best way to protect yourself from the avoidable sun damage that each of us receives on a daily basis as well as the safest way to obtain some rays.
First, what exactly does Sun Protection Factor (S.P.F.) mean? S.P.F. refers to a sunscreens ability to absorb UV rays or a sun blocks ability to reflect them. They are measured by timing how long covered with a sunscreen or block it will take for the skin to burn compared to a skin not protected. For example, SPF 15 means it will take 15 times longer to burn with it than without it.
The S.P.F. can range from 2 to 60, but in reality an SPF of 30 only protects the skin 4% more than an SPF 15. This is because an SPF 15 absorbs 93% of the UV rays, while an SPF of 30 absorbs 97%. The Department of Health’s sun safe advice, recommends that people use a broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 15 or higher in conjunction with other methods.
Additionally, the protection intended from an SPF of any sort is dependent on factors like the amount used and how it is applied, when it is used and how often it is reapplied, and what level of SPF is used and whether it is a screen or a block.
Applying sun protection and general guidance
- For starters, the amount of product needed to actually receive the amount of SPF intended by the manufacturer is 30 to 60 mls or ½ tsp for each appendage, and about half of that for the face.
- Application should be much like that of painting a wall. Two coats are always better than one.
- When going out into direct sun light, always apply sunscreens at least 30 minutes beforehand.
- And remember, the rays of which cause the most damage to our DNA and cause pre-mature aging are the UVA rays. These are present even when it is cloudy and raining outside. So, always apply SPF to your face on a daily basis.
- Reapplication should be done every two hours if in direct sun and at least once a day for daily maintenance. This can be established by either using a mineral base make-up or a spray sun block.
- Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm and don’t rely on sunscreen alone.
- Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs, and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV light to protect your eyes.
- Never burn, as sunburn causes permanent damage.
Lastly, and most importantly, what is better, a screen or a block?
There seems to be a lot of confusion around this topic; however it becomes quite simple when we come from a stand point of chemicals versus non-chemical and absorbing UV rays rather than reflecting them. A sunscreen uses chemicals as a way of absorbing the UVB rays. These are responsible for our skins ability to tan (a tan, by the way, is a sign of injury that the skin creates to protect skin cells for DNA damage). Furthermore, if the sunscreen says “broad spectrum”, than it also absorbs UVA rays.
So, if you can’t trust sunscreen, can you trust a sun block? Because a sun block reflects the UV rays up and off the skin, allowing for a very little penetration, as well as avoids the use of synthetic chemicals, the answer is easy. Ingredients like, Micronized Titanium Dioxide, Micronized Zinc Oxide and Zirconium Oxide are all natural minerals that are non-irritating and block out both UVA and UVB. Additionally, because they are not chemicals dependent on a time frame, it is only when they are washed off the face either by sweat or water that they become ineffective. Hence, they provide even longer protection than a sun screen can! And if texture and thickness is a problem, new formulations using mineral blocks have been developed that are light weight and do not give off a whitish appearance to the skin.
With all that said, the facts are apparent. To establish proper SPF protection use a sun block, e.g. Cosmedix – serious protection.
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