Style - Skin Care
By: - at June 20, 2013

15 Enthralling Facts About Sunscreen

Woman wearing sunscreenSkin cancer has grown to be the most common form of cancer in the United States. This has sparked a lot of controversy and speculation over the effectiveness of sunscreens. Prior to the past several years, there were never any sunscreens that were labeled at SPF 60 or SPF 100. These high numbers seem to indicate that they offer the user an exceptionally strong amount of protection against the sun's damaging rays. It turns out that this is not the case.

Using sunscreen has never been as important as it is today. With the changes that are occurring to the earth's atmosphere as far as the ozone depleting, people are at danger of developing skin damage from the sun. The skin damage that occurs from the sun's rays can eventually lead to skin cancers. Every person should use sunscreen to protect themselves from being one of the 3.5 million people who are diagnosed with skin cancer annually in America. New skin cancer occurrences are more common than breast, prostate, and lung cancer occurrences combined. Understanding sunscreen, and how to use it properly is very important, because it is one of the best ways of protecting yourself from skin cancer. Although using sunscreen is very important, it should also be done in addition to limiting sun exposure, wearing sunglasses, and wearing protective clothing.

15)  Regardless of Your Skin Type You Need to Wear Sunscreen
SPF 30 on woman's backAll skin types and skin tones should practice good sun protection habits. The effects of the sun are most obvious on people with fair or light skin. However, just because you have dark skin does not mean you should not be using sunscreen. The effects of the sun, like burns, are less visible on dark skin. This does not mean that they are not damaging the skin. Everyone from fair skinned people, to Hispanic people, to dark skinned African Americans should be practicing proper skin care practices. Darker skin inherently has higher amounts of melanin. This provides it with a greater amount of protection. This can be a double-edge sword. Dark skin is less likely to get skin cancer, but it also makes detecting skin cancer more difficult. Dark skin provides dark skinned people with a false sense of security, according to Dr. H. Gloster, who conducted a study at Cincinnati University. This leads to higher mortality rates due to presence of skin cancer, and it being much more difficult to detect it in patients who have darker skin. Very dark skin has a natural SPF of about 13. Even with this natural protection, it is not enough to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. The rule of thumb is the fairer your skin tone, the higher SPF rating you need. Dermatologists recommend that every person consistently use an SPF 15 product on their skin.

14)  People Should Regularly Examine Their Moles
Sunscreen is used to protect the skin from developing skin cancer. It takes twenty years before the damages of the sun develop into skin cancer, according to pathologist and dermatologist Dr. Cockerell. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. It affects one in five Americans in their lifetime.  The image below is a schematic of a basal cell carcinoma -  a type of skin cancer.

Most skin cancers develop over time, which is why it is important for people to regularly monitor their skin for moles and sunspots. Most cancers happen within the body. The only upside of skin cancer is that melanoma makes itself obvious. There are a series of steps people should follow to regularly monitor themselves for the appearance of skin cancer. An asymmetrical mole could be a sign that it is potentially cancerous. If the edges of a mole are not smooth, it could also be a sign that it is dangerous. Regular moles and spots have smooth borders, whereas cancerous moles look irregular. Most moles are also uniform in color. Cancerous moles have color irregularities. People who develop moles that are larger in size than a pencil eraser should consult a dermatologist. The final way to monitor moles on the skin as potential sign of skin cancer is if they change over time. The American Skin Cancer Foundation recommend that people undergo this spot-check monthly, so they can get to know what is normal and what is not.

13)  A Higher SPF Rating is Not Necessarily Better Protection
Relaxing at the beachIt is common for people to assume that SPF 30 is twice as effective as SPF 15, but this is not the case. The FDA revised its rating of SPF products in 2013, after controversies surrounding the effectiveness of products labeled and marketed with high SPF ratings. A 2012 study by the Environmental Working Group found that very few products labeled with SPF ratings over 50, were actually any more effective than an SPF 50. Researches of the study concluded that few people require anything higher than an SPF 30. The SPF 30 should, however, be reapplied every few hours when exposed to the sun.

The difference in SPF ratings are not equal, but proportional. For example, an SPF 50, if used properly, can protect a person from 97 percent of dangerous sunrays. An SPF 100 is only slightly more effective, with a 98.5 percent protection rate. The difference is negligible, and most consumers use high SPF sunscreens as a false sense of security.

The proper way to use sunscreen is to use one with an SPF rating between 15 and 30. For prolonged sun exposure, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. Only people with very fair skin, and young children, need to use SPF sunscreens with ratings up to 50. SPFs above 50, offer insubstantial increased benefits.

12)  Seeking Shade is More Effective Than Sunscreen
Seeking shadeThe reality of sunscreen use is that most people misuse it. They either do not use it at all, or are not using enough of it. Researches at the Department of Dermatology of Stanford have found that seeking shade is a much more effective way of protecting yourself from sun damage. For people who use sunscreen the way that the average American does, chances are it is not very effective. Many people also keep their sunscreen bottles year after year, only pulling them out in the summer months or for vacations. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness with age. If a sunscreen has been sitting unused for months, or years, it is better that it be thrown out. Instead of worrying about if the sunscreen being used is effective, it may be better to take other protective measures. On days when hours are being spent outdoors, find shade to be in. People are better off avoiding being in the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. altogether. This is when the sun's UV rays are at their strongest.

It is also important not to forget other protective measures. People should always wear sunglasses when outside, to protect their eyes from the sun. Eyes are not exempt from being damaged by the sun. People can also practice good sun behavior by using beach umbrellas and other forms of protective clothing when they are out in the sun or at the beach.

11)  Most People Do Not Apply Enough Sunscreen
Spray on sunscreenTo receive the ideal protective benefits of sunscreen, a lot of it has to be used. A person's skin needs to be generously coasted, and allowed to be absorbed into the skin. This means applying sunscreen about 15-30 minutes before going out into the sun. Every part of the skin that is not covered by clothing needs to be considered. Most dermatologists recommend that people use approximately one ounce of sunscreen. The correct amount will depend on the size of your body, and how much of your skin will be exposed. Sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours, or more often if it gets washed off. Most people only apply about 25% of the amount of sunscreen that they need. No part of the body should be neglected, including the part in a person's hair, and lips. Lips, like the skin, are also very prone to sun damage. The skin of the lips is more delicate than the rest of the body, so an SPF 30 lip balm should be applied regularly as well.

Spray sunscreens have become more popular in the past few years. People prefer them because they are easier to apply. Dermatologists recommend that people using spray sunscreens apply two coats to their bodies. This will ensure that the amount necessary has been applied to the skin.

10)  Most of a Person's Sun Exposure Occurs During Childhood
Protecting children from sun exposure is very important. The primary reason is because they are unable to do it themselves. Also, children's skin is more delicate and susceptible to sun damage. Most of the sun damage that happens to a person happens before the age of 18. Eighty percent of a persons skin damages happens before a child enters their teenage years.

Child applying sunscreen

9)  People Should Always Use Skin Cancer Foundation Recommended Sunscreen
American Skin cancer seal of approvalThe Skin Cancer Foundation is the primary authority of skin protection and skin caner in the United States. People should always use sun protection products that receive the Skin Care Foundation's Seal of Approval. The foundation has approved over 600 products that are effective. These products are also endorsed because they are resistant to moisture as well as safe for sensitive skin. They endorse traditional and international products for activity, as well as daily use. People can spot the seal on cosmetic products, moisturizers, sun protective clothing, as well as sunscreens. This approval ensures that the product has not been falsely marketed, and that its SPF rating is accurate.  When you are looking for a safe and effective sunscreen make sure that the product you are intending to purchase has this seal.

8)  Sunscreen is Not Just for the Beach
Snowman made of sand at the beachMost people only think of using sunscreen when there are heading on vacation or holiday. However, day-to-day sun exposure can also be dangerous. Sunscreen should be used on every day that the sun is out, regardless of the season. During the warm months it should be used daily, regardless of the amount of cloud cover. The sun's reflective power is significant. 80% of the sun's rays are reflected off of snow, compared to only 17% of rays reflected off of sand. This is why sunscreen is also important for people who live in sunny, albeit snowy, places. Sunscreen use while skiing is also important because of the elevations reached. For every 1,000 foot increase in elevation, the sun's UV radiation increases by 4%. This is why some of the snowiest places in North America are also the sunniest.

On cloudy days, 80% of the sun's UV rays can permeate through cloud cover. Even if the sun is not visible, its effects are still there. There are cosmetic products for both men and women that have SPF ratings. Using cosmetics and moisturizers that have at least an SPF of 15 will ensure that we are meeting the minimal requirements of sun protection.

7)  Some Sunscreens Affect People's Hormonal Balance
When we apply sunscreen on our skin, we believe that we are doing something good for our skin. Although this is mostly true because we need sunscreen or sunblock to protect ourselves from skin cancer, we do not think about how and what chemicals we are slathering on our skin. The chemical ingredients in sunscreen are potential toxins, which are detrimental to a person's health. High level of toxins in the body inhibits the body's natural ability to ward off diseases and prevent cancerous cells from forming. Research has shown that sunscreen could be tampering with our body's natural hormonal balances.  The image below shows cancer cells forming among healthy cells.

A 2011 study "Current sunscreen controversies" shows that an ingredient in sunscreens imitates the effects of estrogen in our bodies. This ingredient is called oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an ingredient found in many topical skin ointments such as acne medications. Most people are safe from the effects of this potentially toxic chemical. In order for the ingredient to have an actually significant effect on a person's hormonal levels, they would need to overuse sunscreen. Hormonal imbalances in the body can have adverse effects. With the estrogen hormone, the effects are especially potentially detrimental to men, who only produce small amounts of the hormone naturally. High levels of estrogen, in both men and women, can increase a person's risk of breast cancer.

6)  It is Important to Use Sunscreens with Free Radical Damage Protection
Free radicalsSunscreens are supposed to protect the skin from free radical damage. However, studies have shown that is can also encourage free radical damage to occur. This is caused by the ingredient oxybenzone. However, it is possible for people to avoid this from becoming a problem by using natural products. Natural sunscreen may be more expensive, but the advantages are defiantly worth the price. Unlike most sunscreens, they contain limited toxic ingredients, including those that encourage free radical damage. Having a non-toxic cream is more desirable. Sunscreen is a product people should be slathering large doses of onto their skin. It is better for the health of our skin to use natural products rather than those with are loaded with potentially toxic chemicals that add to the risk of cancerous cells forming, rather than decreasing it.

5)  Sunscreens Can Promote Cancer Rather Than Prevent It
There are a wide variety of chemical ingredients that exist in most sunscreens that are not good for the body. Powerful sunscreens are thick and white in color. Some sunscreens contain nanoparticles, which help decrease the visibility of the white particles on the skin. These chemicals are in the form of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. The particles can encourage free radical formation, especially in the presence of light. Zinc is used as an ingredient in sunscreens. Potent zinc creams are used by people who ski, as well as lifeguards, on their faces as a powerful defense against sunburns. It is also found in sunblock lip balms, which are very easily digested if consumed orally.  Below is a schematic of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Although the TGA warns people about the potentially harmful effects of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, this is only a problem in extreme cases. Most people will be unaffected by these chemicals, as they would have to be absorbed deep into the skin. Potent zinc creams are not easily absorbed by the skin. Instead they are a topical cream that rests on the skin, and is easily washed or sweat off.

4)  Certain Foods Can Act as Sunscreens
Fresh fruit juicesAlthough there is no way to completely protect your skin by eating certain foods, these are foods that can help prevent skin damage from occurring. Antioxidant foods have the ability to prevent cellular damage caused by the sun. They will also help your body by repairing the skin damage that has already occurred. These are antioxidant foods that are rich in vitamin C and E. You can get these benefits by including foods like tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and melons in your daily diet. It is also beneficial to eat foods rich is fatty acids, like fish, nuts like almonds, and avocados. Fatty fish is also a good source of vitamin D, which your body needs and usually gets from the sun.

Even if your diet includes these healthy antioxidant and nutrient rich foods, it is not enough to substitute the use of sunscreen. They will help your body run and function properly. Having a healthy functioning body is essential to the reparation of dead cells that can potentially become cancerous. Having a healthy diet is an additional way you can help protect your body from becoming prone to skin cancer.

3)  Sunscreen Does Not Protect You From all UV Rays
The sun radiates three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the radiation that people have been most concerned about. However, due to the changing atmosphere of the earth, a new concern is the effects of UVB radiation. Most sunscreens only protect us from the UVA rays of the sun. UVA rays are the most intense ultraviolet rays. They can be up to 50 times more powerful than UVB rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

UVB rays are a new concern as the earth's stratosphere allows more of the sun's dangerous radiation to permeate the atmosphere. People today have higher exposure to UVB rays than any generation before. It is important to find sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.

Dark clouds with sun rays shining through

People do not have to worry about UVC radiation, because it has no effect on a person's chance of developing skin cancer. The type of UV is characterized by its wavelength. UVA and UVB rays are high and mid-range wavelengths, respectfully. The dramatic increase of melanoma incidents since the 1960s is attributed to increase of UVB rays affecting people. The increase of UVB rays is a result of the deterioration of the earth's ozone.

2)  Sunscreen Limits Your Body's Ability to Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D written in the sandVitamin D is an essential mineral that the human body requires. It is one of the only minerals that humans cannot synthesize naturally. Instead, we get it from vitamin D rich fishes like tuna, sardines, and herring. Some juices and other food products enrich their products with vitamin D supplements. People who live in places of the world that get a lot of sun can get their required doses of vitamin D from 10 minutes of daily sun exposure. It is equivalent to 10,000 units of vitamin D. However, people who live in areas of the world that have limited sun exposure throughout the year need to ensure they are getting the adequate amount of the vitamin. Studies have shown that Canadians need to be more careful about getting enough vitamin D, because of the lack of sun in their climate. The same would also apply to people who live in the northern United States. Approximately one-third of the population is vitamin D deficient.

Many people refrain from using sunscreen because it prevents them from absorbing the natural vitamin D from the sun. Although this is true, people only need a few minutes in the sun to get their daily vitamin D requirement. It is most important to be diligent about applying sunscreen appropriately. Even if a person uses sunscreen regularly, they are likely still not using it enough. This means they are still getting their required vitamin D. There is no reason to be worried about becoming vitamin D deficient if you use sunscreen. We can get vitamin D from just a few minutes of sun exposure, as well as from certain foods and vitamin enriched products. This is especially important for dark skinned people because their skin makes it more difficult for their bodies to absorb the vitamin where their higher levels of melanin protect them from sun damage.

1)  Using a Lot of Sunscreen May Not Prevent You From Getting Skin Cancer
The main reason to use sunscreen is to prevent us from getting skin cancer. However, it will not protect us from all forms of skin cancer. There are three forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. People who are genetically prone to skin cancer have a much higher risk of developing skin diseases than those who do not. This is particularly common among Caucasian people. Fair skinned people, and people with a lot of freckles or moles are also more likely to develop skin cancer. Using sunscreen is never 100% effective. There will also be cases when a person is exposing themselves to the dangers of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Regardless of the skin type of a person, anyone can develop skin cancer. Exposure to the sun is not always in our control. Sun damage that occurs at a young age can reappear later in life as skin cancer. It is impossible to be completely protected against the sun's rays without radically altering your lifestyle.  Below is a schematic of the stages of melanoma.

stages of melanoma

Final Words
Sunscreen brings up a lot of issues. It can be both good, and in some ways bad, for us. Overall, the advantages of using sunscreen far outweigh the potential disadvantages. If the disadvantages of what the chemicals are doing to your skin and body are worrisome, there are ways to avoid them. The best way to protect yourself from the damages of the sun is to actively seek shade when spending time outdoors. Limit daily sun exposure to no more than 15 minutes. Using organic or natural sunblock will help people avoid the potential downfalls of the creams and lotions. It is important to practice preventative measures against skin cancer. If a person is prone to skin cancer, either through heredity or through sun exposure, it is important to monitor the changes in your body's moles. Skin cancer is a growing form of cancer that is affecting more and more people. It is important to know the features of sunscreen and understand sun exposure to protect ourselves from being affected by skin cancer.





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