Sunscreen is the most common form of sun protection. Its effectiveness is indicated by the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating. The SPF number represents an estimate of how long a person can stay in the sun without burning. However, this number can vary significantly based on several factors, including the time of day, altitude, skin type, and the amount of product applied.
Sunscreen works by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun’s rays. There are two types of harmful UV rays — UVA and UVB. UVA rays, or aging rays, can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays, or burning rays, are primarily responsible for sunburn. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Please note that older sunscreen labels with claims like ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweat-proof’ are no longer allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Current guidelines permit labeling as ‘water-resistant,’ along with indicating whether the product provides 40 or 80 minutes of protection.
Using Clothing for Sun Protection
Clothing also offers some degree of sun protection. However, the effectiveness of this protection is variable. The Skin Care Foundation measures fabric effectiveness using an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating, which indicates how much UV radiation can reach your skin. For instance, most cotton shirts offer about a UPF 7, which decreases when the fabric is wet. Thus, it’s advisable to use sunscreen in combination with protective clothing for optimal protection.
Sun Exposure Management
Avoiding prolonged sun exposure during peak UV radiation hours (usually between 10 am and 4 pm) is an effective strategy for sun protection. The risk increases at higher altitudes and areas closer to the equator, where the UV rays are more intense.
Sunscreen Application Tips
Applying sunscreen correctly is key to ensuring its effectiveness. Follow these guidelines for proper application:
- Apply Before Exposure: Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow sufficient time for absorption. Applying sunscreen on skin that has already been exposed to heat and sun can increase the likelihood of an adverse reaction to the sunscreen’s active ingredients.
- Reapply Regularly: Reapply sunscreen liberally after activities that result in heavy perspiration or swimming. If you’re spending several hours in the sun, reapply periodically throughout the day as a precaution.
Educating clients about the importance of sun protection and the risks associated with UV radiation exposure is an essential part of any skincare professional’s role. Staying informed about the latest developments in sun protection by visiting reputable websites like the FDA’s can help ensure that your clients are receiving the best advice.
Proactive sun protection isn’t just a strategy — it’s a lifestyle. It’s never too early or too late to start incorporating sun protection measures into your daily routine. Your skin will thank you for it in the years to come.