This isn’t anything new or earth-shattering… but I cannot, for the life of me, keep it straight.
I figure that there might be other people like me, who for some reason can’t manage to retain this information. Every year, I ask myself these same questions:
What does SPF stand for…? (And what do the different numbers mean?)
What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays…?
I know there is an ingredient I am supposed to want in my sunscreen… what is it again?
There’s a ton of information out there, but I need to just keep it simple. In a nutshell:
What does SPF stand for?
It’s pretty straight forward: Sun Protection Factor. (So easy! Why can’t I remember that?!)
What does that SPF number mean to me?
Basically, it determines how long can you stay in the sun before you need to reapply sunscreen.
You take the number of minutes it takes for you to get a sunburn and multiply it by the SPF number you want to use. For example, if you’re fair skinned and you will burn after just 10 minutes of exposure to the sun, then an SPF 15 sunscreen would protect you for about 150 minutes. (10 min x 15 SPF = 150 minutes of sun time.)
Um, I don’t know how long it takes me to burn, and you know what…? I don’t plan to test it and find out.
I am going to err on the side of caution and use a higher SPF or not stay in the sun that long.
You know what else? When they determine the SPF numbers (they being the scientists and product developers, etc) it is tested without factoring in things that might affect the potency, like water, sweat, wind, or even “human error” where people don’t apply enough, or apply it improperly.
It’s recommended that you use about an ounce of sunblock (enough to fill a shot glass or the palm of your hand) and that you apply it about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Oh… and shake well first. (I never do that…. oops.)
Make sure you get it everywhere. Back of your neck, your ears, the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals and you should probably wear a hat if you’ve got thinner hair. (I do not have an issue here.)
What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
(And isn’t one of them worse than the other?)
Nope, they’re both pretty bad.
These are the ones that make you ugly. I remember it by UV-Age
These cause long term skin damage. They penetrate clouds and glass. These are the ultra violet rays that fade your carpet, furniture and curtains if they are by a window… Imagine them doing the same thing to your skin.
People used to think these rays were safe, (or at least not so bad.) and these are what are used in tanning beds, etc. Turns out, they penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and contribute to (or even trigger) the growth of skin cancer cells in the basal layer of your skin. Boy were we stupid.
I always wear make-up with at least an SPF of 15 and have been using an SPF 30 moisturizer for the past several years. Even so, check this out. Here is a great example of how the UVA rays can even penetrate glass.
Keepin’ it real here:
No make-up, harsh lighting. For a 45 year old broad, the wrinkles and crows feet aren’t too bad, but those little brown spots….? That’s all sun damage. (Keep the comments about my over-grown eyebrows to a minimum, m-kay?)
Add up all of the UVA exposure, even through clouds and glass (especially in the car), and you are “out in the sun” way more than you think.
Cause sunburn and skin cancer. I remember it by UV-Burn.
These are the rays that target the outer layers of your skin. The damage they cause can hurt you immediately, either from sunburn or skin cancer. Does it contribute to the aging of your skin? Of course, that too.
What kind of sunscreen should I get?
You want one that is a broad spectrum with an SPF of at least 30 and is water resistant.
“Broad spectrum” sunscreen means it has a physical sunblock as well as a chemical sunblock and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
The physical sunblock reflects/scatters UVA radiation, and the chemical sunblocks absorb both the UVA and UVB radiation before it gets to your skin. Make sure that your sunscreen has at least one of these ingredients: Zinc oxide, Avobenzone or Titanium dioxide. I remember them by thinking ZAT. (Sort of like zit, in that it’s related to the skin…. oh shush. It works for me.)
So! At the end of all of this, what am I going to do? I’m going to slather myself with at least an SPF 30 sunscreen, even if it is cloudy outside and I am going to do whatever I can to take care of my skin…. not just to avoid skin cancer (even though that’s important) but for vanity’s sake.
Otherwise, you’re this.
I don’t want to look like that.
How about you…? What precautions so you take to save your skin?