Soak Up the Sun: The Importance of Using SPF

skin protectant

Did you know that avoiding sunburns and high-intensity sun exposure can decrease your chances of getting melanoma?

You’ve probably been told to wear SPF and other forms of skin protectant, but do you really know why you’re doing so? Preventing skin cancer is only the beginning, and there is so much more for you to learn.

Read on to learn all about the importance of using SPF as a skin protectant.

How Does SPF Work as a Skin Protectant?

The sun emits two types of ultraviolet waves — UVA and UVB. UVA wavelengths are longer and are associated with skin aging. UVB wavelengths are shorter and are associated with sunburn.

A broad-spectrum SPF works to protect you against both. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends wearing SPF 15, most skin experts would tell you to grab SPF 30. While you can opt for high-SPF products, they’re not necessarily going to provide you with a lot more protection.

The truth is, anything higher than an SPF 50 isn’t entirely necessary. SPF 30 can already block almost 97 percent UVB radiation, SPF 50 can block 98 percent, and SPF 100 blocks about 99 percent.

While the number you reach for is entirely up to you, it’s important to know what they truly mean.

Other important factors to consider when looking for sunscreen are water resistance and active ingredients.

Water resistance is important for both pool time and sweat time. Eventually, in either situation, you’re going to reapply, but a water-resistant sunscreen helps lengthen the time between applications.

We’ll talk more about why active ingredients matter later.

How Do You Wear Sunscreen?

Some people don’t enjoy wearing sunscreen because it can leave a white cast on their face or body. Others simply don’t wear it because they don’t know how or where to apply it.

There are different sunscreens you can wear on your face versus your body, and it’s important to distinguish between the two. You can use a spray or lotion sunscreen for either one, but it’s important to always it when you’re leaving the house.

Nowadays, there are sunscreen drops that you can simply mix into your moisturizer. There are also sunscreens with a tint so you look tan after applying it, and there are options for chapstick or lip products, which people often forget.

No matter what you decide to purchase for yourself, it’s important to always reapply it every two hours. If you’re wearing makeup, try to also buy foundation or other products with SPF inside so you know you’re protected all day long.

Potential Benefits of SPF

Now we move into the potential benefits that come with SPF. While reducing your risk of skin cancer and sunburn are both great benefits, there’s more you should know.

It Helps Fight Premature Aging

UV radiation can cause premature aging by breaking down two crucial elements in your skin — elastin, and collagen. This results in fine lines and wrinkles.

Since the sun is responsible for up to 90 percent of aging, SPF is a great way to prevent that.

It Reduces Hyperpigmentation

UV radiation can damage skin cells called melanocytes, which causes the overproduction of melanin. This overproduction causes hyperpigmentation.

You’ll notice when this is happening to your skin because it’ll look darker in some patches than it does in others. This is because the production of your skin’s melanin has been disrupted.

Darker-skinned individuals are more prone to hyperpigmentation.

It’s Crucial for Sun-Sensitive Skin

For people with sun-sensitive diseases like rosacea or lupus, using SPF is crucial to their protection. UV rays can cause redness and burning, which is only heightened for those with these conditions.

How to Choose a Sunscreen

Remember those active ingredients we touched on earlier? This is where they begin to matter.

Note whether the active ingredients on any sunscreen are chemical or mineral. Chemical means that sunscreen contains chemicals that protect skin by absorbing UV energy. Mineral sunscreens most commonly contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide — both work to provide a physical barrier between your skin and UV rays.

Both options work to protect your skin, but chemical sunscreen comes with two drawbacks:

  1. It’s more likely to irritate your skin
  2. It isn’t great for the environment

Some chemical sunscreens contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been banned in places like Hawaii and Key West. These chemicals can have a negative effect on marine life and coral reefs.

They can cause coral bleaching and growth impairment in green algae. In mussels, they can cause birth defects. For dolphins, these chemicals accumulate in their tissues, and those tissues can then be passed on to offspring.

While a lot is still unknown about all the effects these chemicals can have on the environment, It’s still best to avoid sunscreens with these chemicals.

That doesn’t mean all chemical-based sunscreens should be avoided, though. You can find sunscreens that don’t contain these chemicals. Mineral-based sunscreens are reef-safe, however, and are usually the best option to purchase for you and your children.

Remember to Protect Your Skin

When you take steps to protect your skin, you also take the steps to set yourself up for the future. Not only can wearing skin protectant help prevent fine lines and wrinkles, but it can also help prevent skin cancer and other diseases.

While skincare is important for self-care, always wearing your skin protectant is important to overall health as well.

If you’re interested in learning other ways to protect yourself against the sun’s rays, check out this deep-dive article on protecting yourself from the sun.