The use of sunscreen in the winter months is just as important as it is in the summer; because as wonderful as the sun feels, it can wreak havoc on your health. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. More than 2 million people are diagnosed every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. However, skin cancer is not the only negative effect of the sun. Going without sunscreen can have aging effects and cause immunosuppression.
In the summer, the sun’s rays are reflected off the sand at the beach 17x stronger than if they were to fall directly on your skin. But, did you know that sun reflected off the snow is 80x stronger then if they were just to fall on your skin directly? That’s a huge difference! You might as well be sunbathing on a cloud at that point if you’re not wearing protection from the sun.
For daily protection from the sun, you’ll need a sundscreen with at least an SPF of 15.
Which sunscreen is right for me?
Sunscreen doesn’t do us any good if it isn’t providing adequate protection from the sun’s rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher offers 93% protection from the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. If you are more likely to burn, though, purchase an SPF 30 sunscreen, which offers 97% protection. Look for a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. These are usually labeled “broad spectrum” sunscreens.
You can also select a sunscreen based on your daily activity or skin type. Those who dislike the greasy feeling of sunscreen can choose an oil-free product, while those who have sensitive skin or allergies can find many hypoallergenic sunscreens available at most drug stores. If you plan to do physical activity, pick a sports sunscreen as it will dry quickly and is less likely to drip into your eyes while you sweat.
Women can purchase a tinted moisturizer which contains an SPF of 15, or higher, right in the product. This can be a great alternative to face makeup or concealer, which is rarely formulated with any SPF protection. Since you’re applying makeup to your face daily anyway, this could be a great way to protect yourself without having to change much in your daily routine.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
UVA are the rays that cause aging. Studies show that 90% of wrinkles are caused by the sun’s UVA rays. Even worse, UVA‘s are responsible for malignant melanomas because they reach the underlying tissue in our skin.
UVB’s are the rays that cause our skin to burn. UVB’s only reach the epidermis (the outer most layer of the skin) and do not penetrate far beneath the skin’s surface.
More than 2 million people are treated for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers each year, with an additional 63,000 diagnosed with melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society. The top risk factor for skin cancer is unprotected or excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays from the sun. The best prevention for all types of skin cancer is shielding your skin from the sun, including the use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen daily.
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are less severe and highly treatable if detected early. The more-severe form of skin cancer, melanoma, is also treatable if found early in its development. Melanoma accounts for the majority of skin-cancer deaths. Melanoma is also more likely to spread to other parts of your body.
Immunosuppression is considered anything that reduces the activation or efficiency of the immune system. Sometimes, like with organ transplant recipients, immunosuppression can be a good thing because it helps the body not reject the transplanted organ. In everyday activity though, we need our immune systems to be strong and fight off germs and disease.
A single exposure to UVA rays can cause immunosuppression, according to Medscape Today. Sunscreen that only protects against UVB rays does not prevent this, so it is important to use sunscreen that protects against UVA rays as well. Because the immune system is temporarily decreased with UVA exposure, it has been theorized that this allows a malignant melanocyte to develop due to a lack of immune system response.
How to apply sunscreen properly
To be fully protected from the sun’s rays, you must apply sunscreen correctly. Put on at least 1 oz. of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, covering all exposed skin. For an easy measurement guide, 1 oz. is about equal to a shot glass. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating profusely, swimming, or doing any other outdoor activity that causes moisture to come in contact with the skin.
As you can see, the importance of sunscreen is not something to be forgotten just because it’s become cold weather season. The sun’s rays can cause damage to your skin and potentially have adverse effects on your health year round. Protecting your family from the sun’s rays daily can prevent many instances where you could incur high health care costs. This daily protection could also potentially save their life.