Bright spring days will lead to summer before we know it, so it's time to step up efforts to protect your skin from sun damage. The sunscreen aisle at the store seems to become a bit more overwhelming every year. Sun protection ingredients are found in lotions, cosmetics, lip balm and more. Sun protection factor (SPF) levels range from 0 to 100+. This number indicates how long you can spend in the sun without being burned by UVB rays. For example, a product with SPF 30 allows you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning than it would take for you to burn without any protection. But the number tells you nothing about protection from UVA rays, which cause deeper damage. Some studies have found that certain chemicals from sunscreen are absorbed into the skin, creating worries that these lotions could actually cause cancer. That has not been proven. But most sunscreens cannot prevent skin cancer, including deadly melanoma. They do not prevent tanning. They do not protect fully against skin aging. The danger from sunscreen may be our false sense of security after slathering it on.
So what is a sun worshipper to do? First, read the label to make sure that the sunscreen provides both UVA and UVB protection. The minerals zinc oxide and titanium oxide provide a full physical block between your skin and the sun's rays. They are not absorbed into the skin, which is why they leave your skin with a chalky, white appearance. But having pale skin and "lifeguard nose" is worth the extra protection! The less direct exposure, the better. Wear tightly woven garments and a hat, then use sunblock only on exposed areas. Reapply sunblock at least every hour outdoors, especially between the hours of 10 a.m and 4 p.m. (which, by the way, is not a good time to be in the sun). If you are concerned about the chemicals in sunblock, wear non-SPF lotions at night and under your clothes. The sun is not our enemy. We couldn't live without it! We should simply respect its power and avoid exposure to too much of this very good thing.
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