Sunlight is comprised of visible light, which we can see, and ultraviolet light, which we cannot see. There are two types of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB. UVA or ultraviolet A rays can penetrate through glass and cause tanning and potential damage to the deep layers of the skin. UVB or ultraviolet B rays are responsible for causing a sunburn.
UVB rays are most intense from 10 am to 2 pm, stronger in summer months, at higher altitudes, and at geographic locations closer to the equator. Unprotected exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays causes skin damage and put at an increased risk for skin cancer. A sun protection program is a preventative measure against these skin conditions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued regulations of sunscreen products.
Understanding Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
SPF is the measurement of protection from ultraviolet rays. The SPF level is a relative measure of the amount of sun protection provided by the sunscreen product. Contrary to what most people think, it is not a measurement of how well a product can protect a consumer from sunburn.
To maintain skin health, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with high SPF levels and to apply it correctly.
Choosing the Best Sunscreen Product
Medical experts recommend reading the list of ingredients in sunscreen products. Broad spectrum coverage against harmful UVA and UVB rays is provided by products which contain avobenzone, ecamsule, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying five to six teaspoons of sunscreen to cover the entire body. Consumers are advised to reapply the product every two hours during periods of prolonged sun exposure.
Reapplication is essential for optimum protection and should be done after swimming and any physical activity that results in heavy sweating or rubbing off of the product. Fair-skinned individuals are more likely to absorb more UV radiation than individuals with darker skin, even under the same conditions.
For best results, choose sunscreen products appropriate for your activities. If you keep an active lifestyle, be sure to choose products that are water- and sweat-resistant. Consumers with sensitive skin should use sunscreens that are fragrance, oil, and PABA-free (e.g. Tizo SPF 35 and TiZo SPF 58)
Regulations on Sunscreen Products
The FDA regulations on sunscreen products and changes to product labeling require manufacturers to provide information about UVA screening and to refrain from using the terms such as waterproof, all-day protections, and sunblock on labels.
Futhermore, a new warning statement is required in the drug fact box on all sunscreen products. The warning is “UV exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other skin damage.”
A Sun Protection Plan
The amount of UV radiation that an individual is exposed to is dependent upon length of exposure, time of day, geographic location, and weather conditions. The goal of a sun protection plan is to decrease UV exposure. This includes limiting sun exposure, wearing clothes that provide sun protection, and the proper use of sunscreen products.