SPF Facts Your Derm Wants You To Know

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Applying the best SPF should be a crucial component of everyone’s morning agenda seeing as the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to skin cancer, dark spots, and wrinkles.

Read on to learn just how UV rays affect our bodies internal and external health, as well as what you need to understand to get the most out of your SPF.

Many people have questions about using an SPF so we’re here to give you the SPF facts!

spf facts

How can UV rays be dangerous?

There are three different types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can damage skin, UVA, UVB, and UVC.

While most of the UVC rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, UVA rays and UVB rays are not absorbed and can damage unprotected skin in a multitude of ways.

UVA rays are commonly associated with prematurely aging the skin through wrinkles and/or sunspots, but also play a role in the development of skin cancer because they penetrate deep into the skin and damage the DNA of cells.

UVB rays, on the other hand, play a more significant role in the development of sunburns but can still contribute to the development of skin cancers despite their inability to penetrate the skin as deeply as the UVA rays.

Without proper protection, both UVA and UVB rays can penetrate the skin and damage the DNA of cells, leading to mutation. In response to this damage your body will attempt to rid itself of the mutated cells through peeling and blistering, however, some of these damaged cells can be left behind.

Those cells left behind will further multiply and mutate, which can lead to skin cancer years later. Aside from cancer, both of these rays can also lead to eye damage in the form of cataracts and suppress the immune system.

How does the sun cause skin cancer?

Sunburns mutate the DNA inside our skin cells, and although our bodies do their very best to get rid of or repair these mutated cells, they are not always successful.

A cell with mutated DNA is essentially a cell with a faulty instruction manual on how to run our body and keep us healthy.

Cells that are left mutated within our body multiply and spread the faulty DNA through a process known as mitosis. Skin cancer is a result of many cells carrying and spreading the altered DNA.

And because it can take up to half a lifetime to develop skin cancer from sun exposure, it is crucial to wear SPF on a daily basis to halt or at the very least limit the snowball effect of mutated cells multiplying.

If you aren’t convinced yet that you should be wearing an SPF every day, consider this: A study found that getting just one sunburn every two years can TRIPLE your chances of getting melanoma skin cancer.

However, it doesn’t take a sunburn to do damage, any form of color is a sign of burning.

So if you’re one of the lucky people who are able to tan without burning, you’re unfortunately still damaging cells.

How does the sun cause wrinkles and dark spots?

When we are exposed to sunlight without proper protection, our skin is absorbing UVA rays into the dermis layer of our skin.

The radiation from these rays trigger receptors that break down collagen in our skin, which is one of key proteins needed to maintain smooth, wrinkle free skin.

Our skin will also be triggered to produce more melanin, the substance that gives our skin it’s pigment and protects it from UV damage.

Over time, this excess production of melanin can lead to the formation of dark spots or “sun spots” through more exposure to the sun.

Since the body cannot blend the excess melanin evenly amongst the skin, these areas that are most exposed will bears the dark spots.

What SPF should I use?

The answer really depends on how much sun exposure you’re expecting.

In all instances, dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Check out this list of recommended SPFs!

You can determine how long sunscreen will be effective by multiplying the SPF factor by the length of time it takes you to develop a sunburn without sunscreen. You can also use this formula for help:

SPF Number x Time to Burn without Protection = Time to Burn with Protection  For example: SPF 15 x 10 minutes = 150 minutes of protection
spf facts
What do the different levels of SPF mean?

The number in the title of an SPF refers to the percentage of UV radiation it can block. For instance, SPF 15 broad spectrum sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UV radiation while an SPF 30 blocks nearly 97 percent, and SPF 50 blocks around 98 percent.

For day to day protection with little to brief sun exposure, dermatologists say an SPF 15 is sufficient. When it comes to more prolonged exposure, dermatologists say an SPF 30 to 50 is necessary.

How much SPF should I apply? And when should I reapply it?

The average person should be applying 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) of SPF to ensure they receive the full protection.

If you are going to be exposed to the sun for a prolonged period of time, such as during a day at the beach, it is recommended that you apply not only a full ounce of SPF, but you do so 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and continue to reapply it every 2 hours.

Also, after swimming, sweating, or toweling off, you should also reapply sunscreen.

Can I still tan with sunscreen?

Yes. It all comes down to how easily you tan, what level of SPF you use, and how often you are reapplying. However, it is best to not rely on the sun for any of your coloring (Remember, there’s no such thing as a “safe” natural tan) and instead opt for one of the many great effective sunless tanners on the market today.

Achieving a sunless tan is quick and easy, and allows you to achieve that effortless (no more flipping over every 30 minutes) vacation glow.

Sunless tanners allow you to feel confident, attractive, and safe. The best part of using a sunless tanner is that you already have the color you desire which means you can apply a higher SPF for the maximum protection.

By choosing a sunless tanner over the sun for your tan, you will not only be able to achieve the look you desire, but also avoid the serious health concerns that come with sun exposure.

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