Oh, Sunscreen…

We have all been lectured about using sunscreen. Even when I was a child my mom would cover me from head to toe in the stuff, and I used to hate it. I personally love the sun, I love the way it feels, makes me feel, and I love a good tan. I’m Italian, so my olive complexion soaks it up and gets me dark… but there is that whole issue of skin aging, and the big C. I’m also a fan of indoor tanning, I know, I said it.  I know it’s terrible, but I’ve done it, and I’ll do it again. It’s important to first understand your skin type, and then move on from there, because it really does make a difference.

Here is a simplified skin type chart from tanplusforhealth.com:

SKIN TYPE DESCRIPTION UNEXPOSED SKIN TONE EXAMPLES
I Always burns easily; never tans white people with fair skin, blue eyes, freckles
II Always burns easily; tans minimally white people with fair skin, red or blond hair, blue,hazel or even eyes
III Burns moderately; tans gradually white normal average Caucasoid
IV Burns minimally; always tans well white /lt.brown people with white or light brown skin, dark brown hair, dark eyes
V Rarely burns; tans profusely brown brown-skinned persons (East Indians or Hispanics)
VI Never burns; deeply pigmented. black blacks (African and American Blacks)

You should first identify where you fall on the skin type chart because that indicates your risk for developing skin problems in the future. Just because you fall into a darker skin type does not mean you don’t have the ability to get skin cancer, because you do. People who are fairer skin are at more of a risk though because they do tend to burn easier.

Sunscreen is SO important no matter what skin type you are! It isn’t about how fast or dark you tan, it’s about avoiding the ultraviolet radiation that causes premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Sunscreen has ingredients that physically block radiation and absorb radiation. The radiation blockers effectively reduce the exposure of the skin to UVA and UVB rays. The radiation absorbers are effective at absorbing UVA and UVB rays, but usually only absorb one or the other, not both. (Although the FDA is making it so that all sunscreens need to block both UVA and UVB rays).

What is an “SPF”:

The SPF measures the amount of UVB radiation absorbed, but not UVA radiation because there is no method of reporting that. It is important to find a sunscreen that protects against both UVA AND UVB radiation. These sunscreens are called “broad-spectrum” and should be an SPF 15 or higher, containing azobenzene, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all sun-exposed areas. It takes 20-30 minutes for it to be absorbed by the skin, and some sunscreens can break down in the presence of water-based foundations/moisturizers, so it should be the last thing applied. It is also important to reapply it, it is most effect to reapply sunscreen 20-30 minutes after being in the sun rather than the recommended 2-4 hours.

Facial Sunscreen:

Sunscreen should be applied daily to your face, the daily use of a lower SPF sunscreen (generally a 15) is most effective in preventing skin and radiation damage rather than a higher daily SPF. When out in the sun for a period of time though, a higher SPF (30 and above) is recommended.

It is easy to find the right sunscreen for your body, but harder to find the right one for your face. Especially because your face can react differently than the rest of the skin on your body. A person with an oily T-zone isn’t going to want a sunscreen that makes them more oily, but someone with dry skin wants one that’s more moisturizing… it is up to you to do your research and find the right one for your face.

There are also moisturizers or wrinkle creams that have SPFs in them. Depending on the creams, some SPFs are generally less effective due to the other ingredients in them. Do your research on a cream you’d like to try, and make sure that if it is also a wrinkle cream, the SPF is still relevant and useful. Or you can just use a wrinkle cream separate to your sunscreen, because that is sometimes your best bet. BB creams have become popular on the market and can be found at beauty retailers like Sephora, or now Garnier and Maybelline have made their own cheaper creams that can be found at Target. Most importantly, find what is right for you.

Sunscreen importance can not be stressed enough. Even if you don’t have a family history of skin cancer, tan amazingly, and have zero moles… it doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you too. It can. Not to mention just wrinkle prevention in general. Sure, we are going to age and get wrinkles, it happens it can’t completely be avoided (even with Botox) but who wants to make those wrinkles worse by tanning?? Not me. Sunscreen is my face and neck’s best friend daily, and when I’m outside in my bikini it is my whole body’s best friend. It is the best defense to the radiation that the sun emits.