By Andrea Popolizio
Before we dive in with the nitty gritty of SPF. Fun fact for you: July is UV Safety Month. During this time, the mission is to spread awareness about how important it is to protect our skin from the side effects of UV rays. We know that one of the best ways to practice UV safety is to wear sunscreen every day and not just during the sunny days of summer.
To acknowledge UV Safety Month and warm summer weather, I bet you are excited to spend time with family and friends, planning vacations, with one destination remaining a popular choice for many: the beach. However, extra time spent soaking up the sun increases our exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, it raises our risk for developing skin cancer and damage to our skin.
Sunscreen is one of the most important tools in the prevention of skin cancer/damage and keeping our skin healthy from environmental factors all year round.
While the skin is at its most vulnerable when on holiday in the sun, the risk of skin damage is a year-round concern. It’s really important to use sunscreen every day because ultraviolet rays are present all year round, even in the winter months. Ultraviolet rays can cause problems with skin cancer and skin aging. It's really important to incorporate sunscreen use into your daily regime so it becomes routine. Many people think that skin protection against UV rays is only necessary when you are in the sun and only during the summer months. However, the use of sunscreen in winter, autumn, or during rainy periods is essential since the skin is still exposed to UV rays. In fact, even if the sky is overcast, clouds allow between 80% and 95% of the sun's rays to pass through. The application of sunscreen all year round is particularly recommended to protect against UV rays.
There are two types of UV radiation and their harmful rays. The first one is: Ultraviolet A (UVA) Rays. This is the most common cause of premature aging of the skin (i.e., wrinkles). The second one is: Ultraviolet B (UVB) Rays. This ray is the most dangerous, causing sunburns. Overexposure to both types of rays can cause skin damage. Sunscreens labeled as “broad spectrum” help protect against the effects of both UVA and UVB rays.
A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) indicates how much protection it offers against UV radiation. Sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30, will block 97 percent of the sun’s rays. An SPF that is higher than 30, starts to lose its effectiveness and chemical properties of protecting the skin from the UV rays. Rule of thumb is to apply SPF every two hours when outside. When looking for an SPF ensure that the label does not say: Waterproof or Sweat-proof. The label should state: Water Resistant, which is effective for up to 40 minutes in water or Very Water Resistant, which is effective for up to 80 minutes in water.
These days, it seems to be common knowledge that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, but the honest truth is that our brains have been programmed otherwise. For decades, we’ve bought into marketing campaigns that the position of SPF is a “warm-weather” essential.
Thankfully, there is a lot more conversation about sunscreen and advances in the types of sunscreen available. But what is still concerning, is that most of the dialogue is anchored in SPF being a summer “trend” ; the concept of wearing SPF all year around is fleeting. I think it’s important to caution us all against calling it a trend. By its very definition, a trend does not last. Our society names and cycles through trends quickly, so let’s be sure that we don’t let that happen to SPF.
We’ve come so far in the education and availability of better sunscreen options, so I urge you to continue to wear it daily — and keep protecting your skin, every single season. Rethinking your habits with new daily rituals takes work, but I can attest that preserving your skin and overall health can be just as easy as applying your favorite products. It wasn’t too long ago that we had to convince people to wear seatbelts in cars and helmets on bikes, so it’s my hope that applying SPF year-round will soon become the same.