Do you know what SPF means? Or how to apply sunscreen correctly? Check out these five sunny facts before heading out for your next day of fun in the sun!
Have you ever slathered your sunscreen on before a day at the beach and then gotten a sunburn anyway There are lots of reasons this could have happened. If you’re not sure how sunscreen does its thing, chances are, you made one of those accidental mistakes. We all know we’re “supposed” to put on sunscreen before we head outside, but why? What does it do? How does it work?
Here are the answers to all those questions and everything you want to know about sunscreen in one handy guide!
Table of Contents
1. What is Sunscreen?
Have you ever been to a pool or a beach and had someone say they didn’t need sunscreen? They probably looked up at the sky and said it was too cloudy.
The reality is that sunscreen is necessary on overcast days just as much as on sunny ones. UV rays from the sun can penetrate through clouds. Fifteen minutes outside is long enough for your skin to feel the damage.
We all know that sunscreen helps keep us from getting a sunburn, but that’s not all it does, and it can’t do that by itself. Sunscreen is only a part of your sun protection plan.
Of course, sunscreen is necessary to avoid burns. But more importantly, using it regularly can decrease your risk of skin cancer and precancer. Squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are dangerous cancers that come from UV ray exposure.
Another benefit of sunscreen is that it can minimize premature aging of your skin. The sun damages your skin cells, which causes wrinkles, age spots, and sagging.
How Sunscreen Works?
You might not realize it, but there are two different UV radiation types the sun sends us each day. One is a UVA ray, which is the longer ray. Because it’s so long, it can penetrate your skin deep into the dermis, causing permanent damage.
The UVB rays are shorter but can still do damage. These are usually what cause sunburns and problems to the outer layer of skin, the epidermis.
Both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous. Your sunscreen should offer protection from both of these; the label should say “broad” or “full” spectrum coverage.
Physical (or “mineral”) sunscreen is one type of sun protection. It contains UV filters that reflect the sun’s rays off your skin, scattering and blocking them before they can do damage. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the FDA-approved physical UV filters.
You can also use chemical sunscreen. These products use active organic ingredients that grab the UV rays and absorb them instead of blocking them. Once they absorb, they then catalyze through a chemical reaction that changes them into heat. Your skin releases the heat, and no harm happens.
The drawback to chemical sunscreens is that they usually only protect from UVA or UVB rays, not both.
If you’re aiming for a broad-spectrum product, physical sunscreens are the way to go. Chemical sunscreens have the advantage of going on smoother and more cleanly, though.
2. What Does the SPF Mean?
You’ve narrowed down your product based on UVA and UVB protection and the type of coverage it gives. But what about that number on the bottle? That’s an equally important characteristic of your sunscreen. Called the SPF for “sun protection factor,” this number tells you how strong the product is.
Specifically, the SPF number lets you know how long it would take the UV radiation to cause your skin to burn using the product versus not using it. An SPF of 45 means it should take you 45 times longer to burn by using that product.
The higher the SPF, the fewer UVB rays can penetrate your skin. The ideal sunscreen would then have broad-spectrum coverage and a high SPF.
The problem then becomes that people think their top-of-the-line sunscreen is fully protecting them. They stay out in the sun longer and forget to reapply coverage.
Sunscreen is only part of the protection plan. You should still find shady areas when you can, wear a hat, and cover your skin as much as you can. Otherwise, you’re still getting UV damage.
This is especially true for people with sensitive skin or a history of or genetic risk of skin cancer. Certain climates are more dangerous, as well. If you are in high altitudes or near the equator, sun protection is essential.
3. Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
The terms “waterproof” and “water-resistant” are often used interchangeably. Yet, they’re very different.
When it comes to sunscreen, you probably won’t see the “waterproof” label anymore. Recent changes in sun care product labeling from the FDA required manufacturers to switch to the “water-resistant” term.
Waterproof products gave users the wrong impression that they were safe from skin damage. This caused problems as people neglected to reapply and the effect wore off.
Now, sunscreens have to be water-resistant in either 40 or 80-minute increments. The number tells you how long you can go before reapplying your product once you’re exposed to water. The best rule of thumb is to reapply your sunscreen every time you get out of the water or after a workout.
4. How to Apply Sunscreen Correctly
Waterproof mistakes were understandable. The term itself gives the user a false sense of security. Then there are other errors people make with applying sunscreen that prevent the product from working correctly.
Some of the most common sunscreen mistakes include:
- Neglecting to apply the product at least 15 minutes before going outside to give it time to start working
- Not using enough sunscreen or missing spots (the forehead, ears, and back of the body are the most commonly skipped areas)
- Staying in the direct sunlight during the time of the most direct rays (typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Counting on sunscreen to do all the work and not covering up or staying in the water too long without reapplying
Protecting your skin is essential. Use a lot of sunscreen and reapply frequently!
5. You Still Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem. As people stay inside more, they don’t get enough of this vitamin in their diet. But going outside covered in sunscreen minimizes how much Vitamin D your skin gets, too. It’s a key nutrient that helps you stay in good shape physically and mentally.
Vitamin D is linked with reducing mental disorders like depression. It’s also thought to reduce the likelihood of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis.
To make sure you’re getting enough even while you’re covering up and wearing sunscreen, add a Vitamin D supplement to your daily routine. You can also boost the Vitamin D-filled foods in your diet, like red meat, egg yolks, and oily fish.
Sunscreen is a crucial part of your healthcare protection, but many people neglect or misuse it. To optimize your sunscreen use, get a broad-spectrum, water-resistant product with the right SPF. Then, avoid the common mistakes people make when using their product and go enjoy your day!
Janey Ha, Business Manager at Mariposa on 3rd, has over eight years of experience in property management. She has a strong background in hospitality and is local to the Koreatown/DTLA market. Mariposa on 3rd is a stylishly designed boutique apartment community at the threshold of LA’s budding metropolis, located within the hip neighborhood of Koreatown while just moments from DTLA.