The Significance Behind Sun Protection and Skin Cancer Prevention
By Gina Cartwright, Maren Stratte and Elizabeth G Stratte, MD
The best defense against skin cancer is sun protection.
Sunscreen has evolved over the decades and has become much more than just a thick white film on the skin. Nowadays, sun protection is designed to be convenient for everyone, making it more likely for individuals to want to wear it every single day.
HOW DOES THE SUN DAMAGE OUR SKIN?
Too much UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds damages the DNA of our skin cells which changes the functions of how our skin looks and feels. Studies have shown that 90% of aging comes from the sun. The sun is responsible for the majority of aging but light is around us at all times, making sun damage a year round concern for the health of our skin.
WHAT IS UVA AND UVB RADIATION?
- UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are most responsible for reducing the elastin and collagen in the skin.
- UVB rays also come from the sun and are what causes your skin to burn, linked to skin cancer.
SHOULD MY SUNSCREEN SAY BROAD-SPECTRUM?
All sunscreen products should be listed as a broad spectrum sunscreen to ensure it is protecting you against UVA and UVB rays.
WHAT LEVEL OF SUNSCREEN SHOULD I USE?
To have proper sun protection, you should be wearing at least SPF 30 or higher year round.
WHEN DO I NEED TO APPLY MY SUNSCREEN?
Your sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure. Once you have applied all of your morning skincare products, your sunscreen should be applied as the last step before any makeup.
Tip: If you notice your sunscreen isn't blending into the skin and leaves streaks, try lightly pressing the product into your skin with your finger tips. This trick will especially help with mineral sunscreens!
HOW MUCH SUNSCREEN SHOULD I USE?
Liquid or Cream Sunscreens: 1 oz (size of a shot glass) of sunscreen is needed to cover the entire body. If you just need to apply sunscreen on your face, neck, chest and ears, ½ tsp is recommended.
Sunscreen Mist or Spray: Two full passes of the mist or spray is sufficient. Apply generously to ensure you do not miss any areas and rub lightly to make sure it is applied evenly.
Sunscreen Compact: It’s best to apply an even layer to fully cover the face.
Tip: Applying the correct amount of sunscreen in one layer can take a long time to blend in. Applying the ½ teaspoon amount in multiple thin layers tends to be more effective.
WHY DOES SUNSCREEN STING MY EYES?
Some of you may have experienced sunscreens running into the eyes and causing a stinging sensation. In this case, first try a mineral sunscreen to use around the eyes such as Total Eye from Colorescience. If that still doesn't solve the sting, then try a mineral water resistant sunscreen like UV Elements or UV Physical from Elta MD. Applying 15 minutes before sun exposure will also help.
CAN I LAYER DIFFERENT SUNSCREENS?
You can layer different sunscreens, but SPF level ratings don't add and build for better protection. The highest level of SPF you have applied to your skin will be the SPF level of protection you will receive. Layering different levels of SPF will only provide an even coverage in case you missed any areas of application.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I REAPPLY SUNSCREEN?
The rule of thumb for reapplying sunscreen is to apply every 2 hours. If you are using a water resistant sunscreen with a time limit of water resistance listed, you need to reapply your sunscreen when you have reached that time limit (if you have been in water or perspiring).
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO REAPPLY SUNSCREEN?
Fortunately, there are a lot of options for reapplication of sunscreen. Depending on your preference, you can apply a new layer of liquid sunscreen or you can use a powder sunscreen like the Colorescience Brush-On. Sunscreen face mists or sunscreen sticks are great for reapplication as well!
CHECK FOR EXPIRATION DATES
It’s always best to refer back to the original box your sunscreen came in because there will either be an expiration date, or a picture of a cosmetic jar with a number in it. This number represents how many months you have to use the product once open before it expires. In some cases it might be helpful to use a permanent marker and write the expiration date on the product.
CAN I KEEP MY SUNSCREEN IN THE CAR?
Sunscreen is very sensitive to extreme cold and hot temperatures. The level of sun protection degrades very quickly if not kept in a consistent temperature of 59-77 degrees. On the other hand, Colorescience Brush-On Shield has been properly tested and will not degrade in fluctuating high and low temperatures.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN USE BESIDES SUNSCREEN TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM SKIN CANCER?
UPF clothing is a great option to protect your skin! These clothing pieces can be very convenient in cases you might not want to apply sunscreen on the entire body. You can find UPF sun protective swimwear, hats and other types of clothing.
CAN UV RAYS PENETRATE THROUGH CLOUDS?
UV Rays can penetrate through clouds, fog and even through car or home windows. Even though you may not feel the heat from the UVB rays, the UVA rays penetrate through the clouds and windows causing skin damage.
THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY!
Sun protection is the best defense against all signs of aging and skin cancer. Redding, CA is the 2nd sunniest city in the United States, which means we are more likely to develop skin cancer. Even with the help of quality skincare and skin treatments, you're not fully protected unless you’re taking these steps to prevent sun damage.
“In addition to these recommendations for sun protection, keep a close eye on your skin. If you notice changing moles or sores and scabs which don't heal, contact your Dermatologist”, says Dr. Stratte.