By Margarita Nahapetyan
As the sunshine of early spring encourages us to spend more time outdoors, we must always be reminding ourselves of the dangers of overexposure to the sunlight and, therefore start using some form of sunscreen on a daily basis. However, there are number of questions that most of us will be willing to know the answer for, such as: how to choose from all of those sunscreen and sunblock lotions and creams that are available on the market? Is one sunscreen better than the other one? How should I know which one to select? This article will provide the answers to all the confusion associated with SPF.
The SPF, short for Sun Protection Factor, is an indicator of a product's effectiveness against ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays are being classified into UVA, UVB and UVC. UVB and UVC sun rays are the most dangerous, particularly in the hot afternoon hours, and after heavy exposure to the sun, can lead to skin cancer. In general, UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays are milder than UVB rays, but because UVA wavelengths are longer, they penetrate more deeply into the skin's layers, causing skin aging, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Sunscreens are topical products which prevent UV light from reaching the skin by either absorbing the UV light, or by reflecting the light. When looking for an active ingredients on the bottle's label, the attention should be paid to the first type of sunblocker - an organic chemical. Each of these chemicals provides the skin with a protection over part of the UV spectrum, so several of such chemicals must be present in the sunscreen gel or lotion in order to cover the certain number of hazardous rays. The second type are light reflecting sunscreens, which are inorganic substances, sometimes called physical sunscreens. They do not allow the UV light to reach the skin, instead reflecting them away. The two main physical blockers are Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide.
The SPF has numbers which point to the amount of UVB protection a sunscreen will provide and SPF 15 is the minimum for a complete sun protection. In every instance, the higher the SPF number, the more protection will be received against the sun's UVB rays. A SPF 15 sunscreen filters about 92 per cent of the UVB light, while a SPF 30 filters 97 per cent and a SPF 50 filters 98 per cent of the UVB. The SPF number also indicates the amount of time that one can safely stay out in the sun. For example, if you happen to be a person with sun sensitive skin, a SPF of 15 will allow you to safely remain under the sun for 15 times longer than you normally would. Eventually you are going to turn red, and if it usually takes you 10 minutes to start turning red while unprotected, you could be outside for 150 minutes (two and a half hours) with SPF 15 sunscreen before risking sunburn. This logic can be applied to any SPF number out there.
Many people wonder if there is any difference between all of the powders, gels, liquids, lotions and sprays on the market? The answer would be that the effectiveness of a sunscreen is not dependent upon the form it is produced in - they all work equally well as long as the ingredients are right for your skin. In general, all types of sunscreen have been designed for mass use. Therefore, the most important thing is to look at that SPF number.
Sunscreens must applied to the skin half an hour prior to going outside in order to allow the product to get absorbed into the skin. If you put it on when you are sweating or wet it will wash off before it even starts working. Most people use very small amount of the product to keep their skin protected. The correct amount of sunscreen for all the exposed areas is approximately 2 tablespoons. After the lotion has been washed off by water or sweat it should be reapplied to the body. Sunscreen should not be used in babies under 6 months of age because of the sensitivity of their skin. Also, not many people are aware that the lower lip is a very common place for skin cancer,. Thus, do not forget to use lip balm with an SPF of at least 15, and reapply as often as possible, especially after having a meal.