The sun is a mood lifter and plus gives one an attractive tan! Hence, it is easy to see why people are attracted to it as a moth to a flame! However, as soon as you get that visible ‘attractive’ or ‘healthy looking’ tan, remember that your skin has already been harmed!! And, this harm can lead to skin cancer! Statistically, one in five Americans will develop the disease in their lifetime.
   Some facts about the sun: The sun is a 4.6 billion old star. It has another 6 billion years to go before it runs out of fuel which is hydrogen. That may be the end of many planets including earth! The good news is that you and I are not in any immediate danger of perishing but the bad news is that meanwhile, humanity is being bombarded by electro-magnetic waves from sunlight in the form of ultra-violet radiation AND, it only takes 8 minutes for radiation from the sun to get to earth.
   There are 3 types of ultra-violet radiation rays. They comprise only 3-5 % of the total total electro-magnetic radiation given out by the sun. But herein lies the problem. In terms of energy, ultra-violet rays are short wave energy rays and anything that has a short wave length has a higher potency of energy than a long wave length which is why they are a danger to human mortality. Ultra violet radiation has an energy wave length below 400 nm (nano-meter). A nano meter is one billionth of a meter.
UVA: A stands for aging. It has a wave length between 315-400 nm which is considered a shorter wave length than say visible light or infra-red but longer than UVB rays. This ray penetrates deep into the skin (think dermal layer) and wreaks havoc on skin cells such as fibroblast cells which create collagen and elastin, thereby, degrading them but also mutating (changing) their DNA so the skin cannot produce the healthy collagen and elastin that keeps your skin youthful and supple. Adding insult to injury is the fact that it can also create skin cancer. Just as an informational aside, tanning beds emit 2-5 times more radiation than the sun!!
UVB: B stands for burn. It has a wave length of 280-315 nm and considered a short wave length. It does not penetrate as far as the UVA rays and impacts on the outer layers of the skin causing sunburns, premature aging and retinal (eyes) problems. It is strongest in the summer during the hours of 11am to 4 pm.
UVC: This has a wave length of 180-280 nm. It is the shortest, strongest and most dangerous UV light radiation. However, it hasn’t reached the earth as YET because the earth’s atmosphere stops it but if we continue on our path of destroying the earth’s ozone layer, who knows what can happen in the future! For the moment we have enough on our plates just dealing with the first two forms of radiation.
   Aside from crawling into a dark cave for the rest of our lives, our strongest protection comes from quality sunscreens and sunblocks. Yes, there is a difference between the two. Sunblocks contain only one or two ingredients, specifically, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. These are also referred to as physicial blocks because they sit topically on the skin and do not penetrate the skin. They deflect the sun’s rays. Hence, since they are not penetrating, they do well with oily, acned and reactive skins that tend to break out with the application of just about anything! Also, you are not putting huge amounts of chemicals (with their own set of side effects) on to your skin AND you do not have to wait 30 mins to get into the sun for it to be effective….a mere 10 minute wait is all that you need! Sunscreens contain benzophenones to protect against UVA radiation and cinnamates and salicylates to protect against UVB radiation. You may have read ingredients that are a mouthful to pronounce such as oxybenzone or octyl salicylate. These are chemicals that penetrate the skin and need 30 minutes to be effective before exposure to the sun. Dry, combination, non-sensitive and non-reactive skins do okay with this type of protection. Not high on my list of favorites!
   A cautionary note: please do NOT use a sunscreen or sunblock that has retinol added to it. Retinol should be used at night only and usage during the day can burn, fry and toast your skin due to its exfoliating properties!! What were manufacturers thinking when they created that dangerous formula!!
   So how do you ascertain what percentage of SPF (sun protective factor) to use? An SPF 15 gives you 93% protection, an SPF 30 gives you 97% protection and an SPF 50 and above gives you 98% protection. There is no sunblock or sunscreen that will protect you a 100%. The word ‘sunblock’ is misleading.
   Also, if you are outdoors, you need to reapply after every 3-5 hours based on your activity. If you are perspiring profusely or on a beach, you need to reapply on the hour! There are variables based on your lifestyle!
   And, finally, what does SPF 15, 30 or 50 mean to you?  It is definitely not the strength of the SPF. So theoretically speaking, if it takes you 20 minutes in the sun to start to redden and burn then using an SPF 15 will extend the burn time by a factor of 15. If you multiply 20 mins x SPF 15 = 300 mins which when divided by 60 mins = 5 hours. The higher the # on the SPF, the longer it will take for you to burn. However, do take your lifestyle into consideration! This is NOT an exact science. What may be adequate for your friend or relative may not be enough or too much for you!
-Copyright June 5, 2014 by Dariya Arman-Mann