Ahhh summer is upon us!! As we emerge from the depths of winter in Canada to bask in the long awaited rays of sunshine, we are once again are forced to ask ourselves “protect or not to protect?” Well folks, I hate to tell you, but that shouldn’t be the question. As the ozone layer gets widdled down to nothing, we should all be using sun protection. The real question is which one, and how much?
First of all why use sunscreen at all? Well, the answer is to protect against UVB and UVA rays which are both present in the sunlight. UVB is partially absorbed by the ozone layer and is filtered out by glass, but UVA passes right through it. UVB is the principal wave which causes sunburn. UVA, penetrates deeper into the skin and is responsible for photoaging of the skin. Photoaging can be described as thinning, loss of elasticity, crepiness , sunspots and freckles, broken blood vessels and pigmentation changes. Both UVA and UVB are known risks for the cause of skin cancer.
The next daunting question to sunscreen consumers is what strength of sunscreen should I use? The SPF rating of a sunscreen stands for the sun protection factor and represents the ability of the product to block out the sun’s rays. It is the ratio between the time it takes to produce a burn when wearing sunscreen versus not wearing it. For example SPF of 15 means it takes fifteen times as long to produce a burn when wearing that sunscreen. Over 90 percent of burning rays are blocked out by an SPF of 15. Therefore increasing to a SPF of 30 doesn’t double the protection. It just bumps the blocking ability up by a few percent. Although an SPF of 15 may be blocking the majority of UVB rays, it does not describe the protection against UVA rays. As the SPF factor increases, often so does the broadness of the protection against other UV rays. Therefore a rule of thumb is the higher the SPF the better the photoaging protection.
Possibly the most confusing part of choosing a sunscreen is what protective formulation is best. Most chemical ingredients in sunscreen are effective against either UVA or UVB, so one that contains a mixture of sunscreens are often the best to provide a broad spectrum level of protection. Sunscreens can be divided into chemical or physical agents. Chemical agents act like a sponge on the surface of the skin absorbing the UV rays and converting them to heat before they can do damage to the skin. Physical agents act as a barrier which reflect scatter and absorb the sun’s rays and acts like a shield to the skin. Only physical agents are able to completely block the rays at the extremes of the spectra of the UV rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the commonly used physical agents, while broad spectrum chemical agents include oxybenzone, cinnamates, sulisobenzone and parsol 1789.
Sunscreen should be applied in the morning after showering and should be reapplied every four hours or after swimming, sweating, or exercise. Hats, sunglasses, and covering clothing should be regarded as part of the sun protection regime.
Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in North America. More than a million cases are detected each year. Conscientious use of sunscreen could drastically reduce the incidence. However, sunscreen use is also the first and most important step to healthier, younger looking, vibrant skin. Be smart! Make friends with sunscreen. Feel free to call us to discuss which product is right for you.
Image Anti-Aging & Laser Clinic
436 Waterloo St.