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Summer Sun and Sunscreen

June 08, 2020

While it is true that this summer may look different from those we have had in the past, one thing will be the same: it is going to get hot! And sunny! And whether we will all be back in the swing of our everyday lives – traveling and spending time outside with family and friends – or if we are still encouraged to stay home as much as possible, this discussion is one that cannot be overstated. This article will talk all things sun protection, give a few fun facts, and discuss the importance of considering your skin 365 days a year (even the cloudy ones)!

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and taking care of it year-round – not just during the spring and summer months – is a lifelong habit to benefit from. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but according to EHE Health, daily sunscreen wear can reduce the risk of contracting skin cancers in half (EHE Health). There are many kinds of sunscreens out there, all boasting their skin-saving benefits. So, what should you be looking for in the perfect sunscreen?

One of the most important factors to consider in sunscreen is its SPF - or Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF, the better protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays. Many doctors will recommend you use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and some will even say SPF 30 is as low as you should go (EHE Health). When talking about blocking UV rays, it is best to use a broad-spectrum formula that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are those responsible for penetrating more deeply into the skin, causing premature skin aging and even many types of skin cancer. UVB rays will give you those nasty sunburns, which are no fun for anyone! If you do get burned though, soy and aloe vera are soothing ingredients to look for in gels or lotions to ease the pain. (Tip: Store your after-sun lotion in the fridge for a cooling effect!)

Another major differentiator in sunscreens you may see in the stores is a chemical sunscreen versus a mineral or physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into the skin and allowing UV light to absorb in the skin also. Once the light is absorbed, a chemical reaction is caused in the skin in which the UV light is converted to heat which dissipates from the skin. Physical or mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, use ingredients like zinc oxide to sit on top of the skin’s surface rather than being absorbed. This prevents the UV light from penetrating the skin (Everyday Health). Both types of sunscreens have their pros and cons, so it is important to keep in mind what works best for your skin the next time you lather up!

Though skin cancer is common, it is preventable. It is imperative to protect your skin every day of the year, especially when the weather warms up and the days get longer. While it may take a few extra minutes to apply sunscreen before your morning walk or weekend pool visit, your skin will thank you now and for years to come!

Jessica Hix