Protecting Your Skin from Sun Damage

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Ultraviolet rays streaming from the sun cause skin damage and protection is extremely important. The immediate effect is the pain of sunburn from too much exposure. Beyond that there are the longer term effects of premature skin aging and worse still, skin cancer – the most common of all cancers and the one over which we have the most control.

Protection controls include umbrellas, hats and clothing that can cover exposed areas, and sunscreen products that limit the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreens reduce your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen products have two jobs: to block the UVB rays which cause the painful sunburn and to block the UVA rays which cause skin aging and increase your risk of skin cancer.

A broad spectrum sunscreen is the one you need. It offers SPF (Sun Protection Factor) protection from the UVB rays, as identified on their label by their SPF factor (e.g., SPF 30) and it offers broader protection against the UVA rays. The sun protection factor, or SPF, of a product tells you how well the product will protect you from the burning UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection. The “Broad Spectrum” claim, right up front on the label, indicates that UVA protection is also available with proper use.

It is important to use the products according to the label – apply thoroughly and often – starting 30 minutes before going out into the sun. All products wear off, wash off and rub off eventually. Even on a overcast day, the UV rays still penetrate the cloud cover and can damage skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation considers SPFs of 15 or higher to be acceptable UVB protection for normal everyday activity, and SPFs of 30 or higher for extended or intense outdoor exposures. When the product states “broad spectrum” on the label, it also offers protection against UVA rays which reach more deeply into the skin. For optimal effect, care for you skin with sunscreen protection year around, using it as routinely as any other personal care product.