Damage to the skin because of sunlight builds up due to continued exposure irrespective of whether sunburn occurs or not. In addition to sunburn and skin cancer, some of the other effects of sun on the skin include wrinkling, premature aging, and in time, an almost leather kind of skin appearance. Certain studies have also indicated that excessive exposure to UV radiation is capable of affecting the body's immune system.
Sunscreens play an important role in reducing the harmful effects of the sun. Sunscreen is available in most of the countries just like any other over-the-counter (OTC) drug. To help customers choose sunscreen best suited for their specific needs sunscreens are labelled with SPF numbers. SPF stands for 'Sun Protection Factor.' The higher the SPF, greater is the sunburn protection which the sunscreen will provide. Since the use of sunscreen by itself may not prevent the possible harmful effects of sun, it should be combined with wearing protective clothing and limiting exposure to sun as far as possible.
Effects of Applying Sunscreen
Let us understand how sunscreen protects the skin from harmful UV light. Sunscreens absorb, scatter or reflect UV rays. Active ingredients in sunscreens like salicylates, oxybenzone, cinnamates, octylcrylene, etc are capable of absorbing UV light and prevent it from impacting the skin. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physically reflect or scatter sunlight and direct it away from the skin.
How to Choose a Sunscreen?
Have a quick look at some practical tips for choosing the right sunscreen.
Broad Spectrum - Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen which protects against UV-A and UV-B rays. SPF indicates UVB protection only. Broad spectrum implies that the sunscreen offers protection not only from UVB BUT from ultraviolet A (UVA) rays also. UVA rays age the skin. You can identify this by reading the product label which will specify the product type as 'broad spectrum' or 'UVA and UVB protection.'
SPF of 30 or Greater - SPF tells you how well a product will be able to block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays which are responsible for causing sunburns. An SPF of 15 screens 93% of the UVB rays and an SPF of 30 screens 97% of the UVB rays. Although a sunscreen with a higher SPF can be useful for fair complexioned people or those visiting sun intense, tropical areas, it cannot screen out 100% of UVB rays.
Water-Resistant - There is no water proof sunscreen since it is possible to wash, rub, or sweat off sunscreens. However, there are 'water-resistant' varieties available which stay on the skin much longer even if the skin becomes wet. Reapplication of water-resistant sunscreen is also a must. It is essential to reapply sunscreen approximately every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, and towelling off.
How to Use a Sunscreen?
Read on to know how to use a sunscreen.
- In case you plan to stay outdoors in the sun for long - three hours or more, it is essential to make use of a sunscreen which offers a sun protection factor of SPF 30 or higher.
- It is important to go for a sunscreen which will provide protection against both ultraviolet-A and ultraviolet-B (UVA and UVB) light.
- Sunscreen must be applied generously. Spreading a very thin a layer may not provide the required protection from the harsh sun rays.
- In addition to sunscreen ensure to use shades and protective clothing which are popularly recommended by skin-care professionals for shielding the skin from UV light.
Skin care experts recommend that adults and children older than 6 months make use sunscreen. Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all types of skin cancers, including melanoma. The best sunscreen is one which suits your requirements and one which you will make use of. Hence, while choosing a sunscreen irrespective of whether you buy a lotion, spray, gel, wax stick, or cream make sure that you like it.
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