We all know that wearing sunscreen is important. We all probably rolled our eyes when our parents slathered on the sunscreen when we were younger, but the fact is that sunscreen is important for much more then preventing sunburns. Did you know that one in five people in the United States will be diagnosed with skin cancer? Regularly applying sunscreen decreases the risk of getting skin cancer dramatically because it decreases your exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Even on cloudy days, UV rays still reach us, so it’s important to apply sunscreen even if it isn’t sunny outside. Sunscreen helps to keep your skin tone even by preventing dark spots and other skin discolorations, especially on the face, and it also keeps you looking younger by slowing down the development of wrinkles.
Of course, the sun does have benefits like providing our bodies with Vitamin D, which plays an important role in our body’s absorption of calcium, cell regulation, immune function, and reduction of inflammation. However, we get enough Vitamin D from just 10-30 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week; so prolonged exposure still usually poses more risk than benefit. The best way to avoid sun damage is obviously to stay out of the sun, but since we all love to spend time outdoors, especially when the weather is nice, there are the steps you can take to help protect your skin.
Apply sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 minutes prior to going outside and then reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating. Choose a sunscreen that is labeled as “broad spectrum”, which means it protects against both kinds of UV rays, UVA and UVB. Dermatologists also recommend choosing a sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30. SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and tells you how well the sunscreen will protect your skin from UV rays. While no amount of SPF can protect against 100% of the UV rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of them and sunscreens with a higher SPF will block even more.
Other steps you can take to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing like lightweight long sleeve shirts, long pants, and a wide brimmed hat. The sun can also damage your lips and eyes, so make sure to also apply a lip moisturizer that has SPF in it and wear sunglasses that block UV rays. If you wear make-up, choose products that have SPF in them or apply sunscreen before you apply your makeup. Avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day, between 10am and 3pm, when UV rays are the strongest.
No matter your skin type it is important to wear sunscreen. UV rays can damage skin whether it is light or dark, burns easily or doesn’t, is already tanned or hasn’t been exposed to the sun in years. Sunburn is an immediate reaction to too much sun exposure, but sun damage occurs over a lifetime. While it is more common for those with lighter skin tones to be diagnosed with skin cancer, this diagnosis does not discriminate entirely. Protecting your skin from sun exposure is just as important to your health routine as a balanced diet and regular exercise, so before you head outdoors, make sure to protect yourself!