One of the easiest ways to protect your skin this summer – and your wallet in the future – is to use sunscreen every time you go outside. Let’s learn what kind of sunscreen to look for (and to avoid), what SPF really stands for, who is at risk the most, and more tips to help protect skin from the sun.
Not all sunscreens are the same.
The reasons for purchasing sunscreen are pretty clear, but nowadays there are more reports on which topical ingredients are good for you and which aren’t. Your skin is your largest organ and absorbs the ingredients you put on it.
Controversial ingredients in sunscreen include: Retinyl Palmitate, Oxybenzone, and Nanoparticles, according to the EWG Sunscreen Guide.
You’ll also want to ensure your sunscreen is UVB and UVA protective, as some sunscreens are only one or the other. If you plan on being in the water or playing a sweat-inducing sport, look for water-resistant sunscreen as well.
Do your own brand research, and choose a sunscreen with healthy skin ingredients that block all harmful rays.
Benefits of using sunscreen
1. Sunscreen helps decrease your risk of deadly skin cancer.
Skin cancer affects 20% of the nation and studies prove sunscreen can protect against it. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF), “ One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.” They also report, “About 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s harmful radiation, and sunscreen is one of the key strategies that helps prevent excessive exposure.”
Who are these one in five Americans?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer affects more people of European descent than other ethnicities or races, although anybody can become diagnosed. “More than 9 out of 10 cases of melanoma [the most deadly skin cancer] are diagnosed in non-Hispanic whites.”
Whether you live in a cloudy state or a sunny one, your chances of being diagnosed or dying of skin cancer don’t change. Instances of melanoma occur most in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa, Georgia, Maine, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Deaths from melanoma occur most in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maine. The risks are everywhere.
However, it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to get skin cancer if you freckle or burn easy, those who were born with light hair and green or blue eyes, have a skin pigment disorder or numerous moles, or are exposed to high levels of radiation, according to WebMD.
If you’re at risk, take extra precautions.
Sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer by blocking harmful ultraviolet (UVB and UVA) rays with Sun Protection Factors (SPF). The SPF number in sunscreen tells a person how much longer they can stay in the sun without damaging affects. For example, SPF 15 will protect your skin 15 times longer than if you wore no sunscreen. SPF 30 will protect your skin 30 times longer, and so on.
Different SPF numbers also filter out different numbers of harmful rays. “SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light-sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference,” explains the SCF, which also reminds us that SPF does wear off, so it’s vital to reapply every couple of hours.
There’s no question that cancer treatment can be expensive, and skin cancer is no different. Skin cancer costs the U.S. $8.1 billion annually. Individual costs can vary. Some people with skin cancer only need a few moles removed; others need chemotherapy. The cost of a skin biopsy alone can be between $150 and $1,000 while chemotherapy can be between $10,000 and $200,000.
Why not reduce your chances of skin cancer and doctor medical expenses by choosing to purchase a $10 to $15 bottle of sunscreen a few times a year? Using a bottle of SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing skin cancer by 40% and the risk of developing melanoma by 50%, according to the SCF.
2. Sunscreen prevents photoaging.
Photoaging is the development of skin aging, including wrinkles, discoloration, and age spots. Some photoaging occurs naturally, but the sun’s UVA rays cause an estimated 90% of photoaging.
Sunscreen plays a huge role in decreasing and improving the effects of photoaging. Plus, if you wear in SPF of 15 or higher regularly, it can even reverse some of the signs, according to the SFC.
The organization also states that those who use sunscreen daily have 24% less skin aging than those who don’t.
3. Sunscreen protects you from sunburns, even when it’s cloudy .
It turns out, you can still get a sunburn when its cloudy.
“As much as 80 percent of UVR can pass through thin clouds that appear to block the sun, so that you can sunburn even on an apparently cloudy day,” states the SFC.
Scientists also suggest radiation rays can be more detrimental in the summer. Because the sun sits higher during these months, it allows for radiation to have a shorter path to your body.
4. Sunscreen blocks many harmful rays that aren’t blocked with the ozone layer.
The ozone layer around the earth absorbs and sends the sun’s harmful UVB rays back into space, protecting the earth and our skin. CFCs, greenhouse gases, human-made substances, and natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions all threaten this vital addition to our ecosystem.
According to the SCF, “the ozone layer is no longer declining, and there are signs of improvement.” However, there was a time when it was in decline, between 1980 and 1995. During this decline, people could’ve been introduced to more harmful rays. “The more damage there is to the ozone layer, the more UVB rays that reach our bodies…Excessive UV exposure can also weaken immune system functioning, reducing our ability to fight off skin cancers and other maladies. Therefore, ozone loss is a serious health threat.”
Although using sunscreen won’t rebuild holes in the ozone layer, it blocks many of the UVB rays that reach our skin through this natural barrier.
Other tips to protect you from the sun.
Wearing sunscreen each time you go outside isn’t the only thing you should do when it comes to protecting your body from the sun’s radiation. Below is a list from the CDC of more proactive ways to protect skin from UV exposure that could lead to skin cancer:
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Are you an avid sunscreen wearer? What guidance can you offer? Jump into the conversation in our Community!
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Things to Consider:
- Wear sunscreen daily to prevent skin cancer and its associated health costs.
- Educate family members and friends of the importance of sunscreen.
- Look for UVB and UVA sunscreens with healthy skin ingredients.