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You might have also noticed that stores have moved sunscreen displays out of the cosmetics department and up, front and center of the store, stuffing their shelves with the stuff. We all know that we should wear sunscreen because it helps keep those nasty and painful sunburns at bay. Unfortunately, most of us miss the point of how important wearing sunscreen on a daily basis really is, even when you aren't on vacation.
Here are some facts according to The Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
- Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
- Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
- About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
With all of the choices available on the sunscreen market these days, it's easy to get overwhelmed and not even know where to start. When trying to figure out which sunscreen is correct for you, its helpful to be familiar with some of the sunscreen terminology.
UVA stands for Ultraviolet (Aging) Rays. These sun rays are short, absorbed by the epidermis and are responsible for tanning your skin. Think scoring a summer tan makes you look young and youthful? Think again. Tanned skin equals sun damaged skin. Tanned skin leads to premature aging of the skin.
UVB stands for Ultraviolet (Burning) Rays. These sun rays are longer than UVA rays. They penetrate deeper into the skin than UVA rays because they cut though the epidermis and get all the way down into the dermis. UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburns. Sunburns can lead to cancer. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, it only takes one blistering sunburn to double your risk of melanoma.
UVC stands for Ultraviolet (Cancer) Rays. Luckily, our planet has the Ozone Layer which acts as a built-in sunscreen that helps protects us from these deadly, cancer-causing rays.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF refers to the amount of protection your skin gets from UVB rays. It's the amount of time your skin can be in the sun before it starts to burn. SPF is also a good indication of how often you should reapply the sunscreen. The higher the SPF in a sunscreen, the higher concentration of ingredients the sunscreen will have. For example: if you're wearing a sunscreen with an SPF 8, only 90% of the UVB rays will be blocked. You wont get any protection from the UVA rays. If you're wearing an SPF 15, your protection from UVB rays are a little better because 93% of these rays will be blocked. Plus, you get a little bit of protection from the UVA rays. Wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 means that 96% of the UVB rays will be blocked and you still only get a little bit of protection from UVA rays.
Broad-spectrum means that the sunscreen provides both UVA and UVB protection. Even though there isn't a sunscreen out there that will completely protect you from all of the UV rays, it's important to choose a sunscreen that will provide you with the most protection for your specific sun exposure.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the sunscreen's ingredients and therefore neutralize the UV rays.
Physical sunscreens act as a physical block on top of the skin. These sunscreens reflect the UV rays instead of absorbing them and neutralizing them like chemical sunscreens do. Physical sunscreens don't irritate the skin because they don't absorb the chemicals from the sunscreen. This is why sensitive skin types should opt to wear a physical sunscreen over a chemical one.
It's important to wear sunscreen. It's also equally important to know how to wear sunscreen correctly.
How much sunscreen should I wear?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using the appropriate amount of sunscreen for each application:
Face Application (includes neck, chest & hands) = one teaspoon (about the size of a quarter)
Full Body Application = one ounce (the size of a shot glass)
Don't forget to apply sunscreen to some of the most commonly missed areas like along the hairline, the ears, nose, feet, neck, decollete, knees and hands.
When should I apply sunscreen?
You should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before any type of sun exposure. If you have dry skin, try mixing your sunscreen with a moisturizer and add to slightly damp skin for extra hydration.
How often should I wear sunscreen?
You should wear sunscreen every day. It isn't enough to apply sunscreen once in the morning and be completely covered for the day. In order for sunscreen to be effective, you have to reapply. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness after two hours. This is why its important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. You don't have to reapply with the same sunscreen you first applied in the morning either. If you're wearing sunscreen under your makeup, the easiest way to reapply sunscreen on top of makeup is by using a mineral powder with an SPF. Just dust on all over the face and go.
Wearing sunscreen doesn't have to break the bank. Check out my Cheap Beauty Tip of the Week: Wear Sunscreen on Broke-Ass Stuart's website for cost-effective sunscreens available at a drugstore near you.