Sunscreens and Skin Care

demo-1Our skin is delicate and fragile and needs protecting at all times. In the summer months, it is always nice to enjoy the sunshine with friends and family. However, exposure to sun can damage the skin and over a period of time can even lead to skin cancer. Sunscreens are effective ways of protecting the skin during the summer months. In this article, we shall discuss how sunscreens work and how they should be used to ensure their maximum benefit.

Why should we wear sunscreen?

The sun’s rays contain harmful ultraviolet light that is usually absorbed by the ozone layer in the atmosphere. However, some UV light does pass through and can be absorbed by the skin. Over time, the skin cells can be stimulated to grow to an extent where it there growth cannot be controlled anymore. This can lead to skin cancer. Moles can also start to become bigger and can become cancerous. This is called a melanoma.

There are two kinds of ultraviolet light that are emitted by the sun. These are UVA and UVB. These two forms can penetrate the skin and affect the immune system within the skin. In addition to this, it can increase the number of wrinkles and can even burn the skin. By wearing sunscreen, the ultraviolet light can be prevented from being absorbed by the skin and this skin damage can be avoided.

What is SPF?

When purchasing sunscreens at the drugstore or at the supermarket, you will have noticed that all sunscreens have the label ‘SPF’ on them, followed by a number. SPF stands for sun protection factor and is a measure of how strong the product is at reflecting UVB rays off the skin (there is no specific standard for UVA). SPF also indicates how long it would take for the UVB rays to penetrate the skin and cause sunburn.

There are different strengths of sunscreens are available with SPF numbers ranging from 15 to 60. In theory, the higher the SPF number, the better the protection. However, this is not exactly true and it is recommended that a sunscreen with an SPF of more than 15 be used to adequately protect the skin.

What does sunscreen contain?

There are different ingredients within sunscreens, all of which protect the skin. Some other common ingredients that should be present in sunscreens include octyl salicylate, sulisobenzone and avobenzone.

Sunscreens are usually available as creams and sprays. Either one is as effective as the other.

Are there any risks of using sunscreen?

Concerns have been raised about certain ingredients within sunscreens. One such concern was the risk of developing skin cancer, but extensive studies have not shown that sunscreens do not cause melanomas. Sunscreen ingredients such as Oxybenzone are oestrogen-based compounds that can get absorbed by the skin and alter hormone levels. However, studies have yet again shown that this does not occur and these products are quickly excreted by the body.

There is no doubt that the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the risks significantly.

Conclusion

Skin care in the summer months is essential. Sunscreens can optimally protect skin from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. Always make sure to use it during the summer months.

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Jeff Russell, Executive Director of the IAPAM

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