By Izabela Kobobel
Coming from northern Europe, I remember that I loved going to the public pool to catch some summer sun. It felt good, especially after a long cold winter.
My friends and I would do anything to obtain a golden brown skin tone which was considered, at that time, a healthy look. Unfortunately, in the end, our pale, white skin usually turned red with blisters and painful sunburns.
Like most youths, we didn’t know anything about sunscreen, skin cancer, or accelerated aging due to damaging UVA rays. We just wanted to look good. Twenty years later, I’m in Florida and there are at least 50 different sunscreen options on store shelves. Most people use some type of sun protection, but most don’t know what sunscreen really is, how it works or anything about the most common ingredients. Being in the esthetic industry and speaking with patients, I realize there are many misconceptions and much confusion.
Common knowledge is that excess sun exposure causes skin cancer. However, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of aging is caused by sun exposure, leaving only 10 percent to genetics and other factors.
As a society, we seem to have accepted the fact that in order to prevent aging and skin cancer, we need to use daily sun protection, but choosing the proper protection can be overwhelming and confusing. Sun protection has many names: sunscreen, sunblock, sun lotion, sun cream, and block out, but in general it is defined as a specific lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from exposed skin.
Sunblock = sunscreen.
They have similar properties, but sunblock is stronger than sunscreen because it is able to block the majority of UVA and UVB radiation from the sun, thus needing fewer reapplications. Sunscreen is more transparent and easier to apply to the skin. It may have UVA/UVB protection, but sunscreen’s ingredients break down at a faster rate once exposed to sunlight, and frequent reapplication is necessary.
For total protection again sun damage, the skin has to be protected from UVA, UVB and IRA (Infra Red Energy).
SPF relates to the amount of solar exposure
The amount can vary from person to person depending on skin type as well as the time of day the individual is out in the sun. Be careful – the number on the bottle can be deceiving. The SPF number is the indicator of UVB radiation required to cause the skin to burn with applied sun protection, compared to the amount of time the skin will burn without applied sun protection. The current SPF guidelines from the FDA are as follows: SPF 4 = 75 percent, SPF 10 = 90 percent, SPF 15 = 95 percent and SPF 30 = 98 percent of burning UVB rays blocked.
90 Percent of sun damage is due to not using a broad spectrum sun protection.
These guidelines do not address UVA rays, the rays that account for 90 percent of aging. In fact, there is no number system for the amount of protection against the penetration of UVA rays into our skin. That’s only measured by the ingredients in the sunblock.
Most cosmetics, if they contain any sun protection, would only be around SPF 15 and only protect from UVB radiation, missing the entire UVA factor. At best, most offer a form of sunscreen but tend to break down with sun exposure.
People may be exposed to a high level of UVA without even realizing it. Driving to work, picking up the kids, taking out the trash, walking the dog, shopping, sitting next to the window for eight hours at work….are you sure you don’t need sun protection?
In terms of ingredients
These days, there are many ingredients added to sun blocks that are not only ineffective in protecting you from UVA/UVB rays, but could also be harmful to your overall health. When shopping for your sun protection, of course consider the SPF number, but also check the label for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two ingredients are proven to provide a broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays. Not only will you be preventing damaging sunburns, but you will also be slowing the aging process that destroys the collagen and elastin in your skin while you enjoy your summer!
Article edited with Victoria Lambert. Izabela Kobobel is an international beauty consultant and owner of Laser Skin Rejuvenation in Rockledge. Contact LSR today to learn more about the best products to protect your skin against the sun while enjoying outdoor activities. For more information call (321) 690-3336.