Sunscreen: Does It Really Have You Covered?
If you grew up hearing the age-old 'wear sunscreen' mantra, now is probably the best time to take it seriously
17 July 2017
By any chance, do you apply sunscreen once a day and then pat yourself on the back for being so conscientious? If so, you’re not alone, but you might want to keep reading…
Once upon a time, some people thought it was a very good idea to get a tan, even if the process involved painful sunburn, peeling, and looking like a tomato... no insult to tomatoes intended.
Most people now know that they should wear sunscreen, especially if they live in a sunny region. Regardless of your skin colour, ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or tanning beds can be damaging, (think wrinkles, liver spots and skin cancers).
Things to consider when choosing a sunscreen
- Check whether the sunscreen offers UVA and UVB protection. UVA light destroys collagen, decreasing skin elasticity and smoothness, while UVB light can cause sunburn. You need protection against both.
- Look for an SPF of at least 30. The number refers to the amount of time it would take to burn, so if it takes 1 minute to burn without sunscreen, then it would take 30 minutes to burn after you apply the recommended amount of SPF 30. SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB radiation, while SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97%. If you’re going to do outdoor activities during the day, experts recommend a sunscreen of SPF 50. “Well then,” you might think, quite reasonably. “Clearly I should find the highest SPF available, and I’ve seen products offering SPF 100!” But SPF 50 should be enough because it offers 98% protection.
- Do your research. We know this may shock you, so please make sure you’re sitting down. Sometimes companies over-promise. In a recent study, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that almost 75% of the sunscreen products they tested either didn’t deliver the promised level of UV protection or contained potentially harmful ingredients.
- If you know you’ll be swimming or sweating, (if you haven’t tried sweating, you must! It’s a popular response to extreme heat and it’s very on trend), look for a sunscreen that is water and sweat-resistant. Otherwise, your protection will get washed away.
- Look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. According to the EWG, sunscreens with these ingredients are stable in sunlight, they offer UVA and UVB protection, and they don’t often contain potentially harmful additives.
- Apply the recommended amount! Even when people do apply sunscreen, they don’t use enough, and it’s important to reapply it every hour or so.
- Remember that sunscreen has a limited shelf life, so old bottles won’t be as effective.
Now that you’re all sunscreen-savvy, (it’ll make for great dinner party conversation), keep in mind that it helps to avoid being outside between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is at its most ferocious. And you might want to check out sun-protective clothing as well.