Wearing sunscreen has a lot of health benefits by protecting your skin from the harmful radiation of the sun. It reduces your risk for skin cancer and premature aging such as as wrinkles and sunspots. However it’s not just for when you’re lounging at the beach or when it’s particularly sunny.
Once when I was on a beach in Hawaii, I saw a man who seemed to have spent enough time in the sun for his skin to look like dried leather. The damage and very apparent aging to his skin was enough to make me immediately throw on a heap load more of sunscreen. And it is why I put sunscreen everyday even when it’s raining or cloudy. Many people believe they are safe from the dangerous rays of the sun when the clouds cover it, but that is a myth. UV rays can pass through the clouds and still cause skin damage.
Types of UV Rays
There are 2 different types of UV rays that are harmful to your skin, UVA and UVB.
- UVA account for 95% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface and penetrates the skin deeper and is associated with signs of aging while also exacerbating the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays.
- UVB is less prevalent but still also cause skin damage and is the main culprit in sun burns.
Exposure to these rays can cause increased risk of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer. It is an abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions in the skin’s basal cells (the outermost layer of the skin). These rarely spread (metastasizes) from the original tumor site, but in rare cases does it spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. BCC is usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells (most of the skin’s upper layers). “SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. They can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow. SCC is mainly caused by cumulative ultraviolet (UV) exposure over the course of a lifetime; daily year-round exposure to the sun’s UV light, intense exposure in the summer months, and the UV produced by tanning beds all add to the damage that can lead to SCC.”
- Melanoma is the most common dangerous form of skin cancer and develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by UV radiation) triggers mutations that lead to malignant tumors. “Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.” If you have a lot of moles or are predisposed to the disease it’s important to get your moles checked and documented.
Broad-spectrum sunscreens should be used to protect against UVA and UVB rays, but the SPF used should be dependant on how light-sensitive your skin is.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent.
So what sunscreen should you use?
There are so many sunscreens to choose from. I personally prefer very weightless ones for my face and daily use and will typically go for water resistant/sport ones for the body when I am going to have intense exposure to the sun like on beach days.
Favorite weightless products:
- Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion ($34) is my favorite luxury brand one.
- Anessa (~$18), a more affordable Shiseido line, has similar products that are less expensive but have a harder time getting a hold of.
- Biore is the most inexpensive of the ones I have tried, but can also is hard to come by.
I am a huge proponent of taking care of your skin and it’s not all just about the skincare products I use. We all love the sun, but sun protection everyday, I believe, is a key element to maintaining beautiful skin as I age.