Only Skin Deep? How to Maximize Sunscreen Efficacy
Any change in the color of your skin as a result of over-exposure to the sun is a sign of damage, even if your skin tends to "tan" as opposed to burn. When this occurs, your melanocytes are trying to tell you that normal, healthy cells have been severely disrupted and therefore are attempting to compensate for that damage.
On the other hand, damage to your skin caused by UV-A irradiation is far more serious. UV-A rays are especially harmful as they penetrate deeper, breaking bonds of DNA which lead to cancer. You typically do not see the immediate effects of UV-A rays, but they are the chief culprit behind photo-aging and wrinkling in addition to actinic keratoses, a pre-cancerous skin condition. Damage to your cells as a result from over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from a tanning bed is un-repairable.
Consider the following analogy: Have you ever left a basketball outside in the hot summer sun for a lengthy period of time? And after you retrieved the ball, you immediately notice that the elasticity of the ball is weakened-it feels "rubbery" and never quite "bounces back"? This is exactly what happens to your skin as a result of prolonged UV-A exposure. Both UV-B and UV-A rays have cumulative affects and coupled together often lead to melanoma skin cancer.
Thusly, make sure you understand "SPF" when purchasing a brand of sunscreen, and do not be fooled by those that claim to deliver a high level of protection. For starters, "SPF" stands for sun protection factor (or "sunburn protection factor"). The way SPF works can be best described by the following example: A SPF 20 sunscreen is only allowing five out of every 100 UV protons to reach your skin. In other words, it is blocking out 95 percent of the UV rays from reaching your skin.
That being said, dermatologist-oncologist Sancy A. Leachman, director of the Tom C. Mathews Jr. Familial Melanoma Research Clinic at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, recommends a SPF 15 sunscreen as ideal for daily, year-round use. Yet, if you are planning a long, leisurely day at the lake (or even a marathon day on the ski slopes), you will want to opt for a SPF 30 sunscreen, such as Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, and be sure to apply the 30-20-2 rule so as to prevent a painful reminder of your day of recreation.
In reality, sunscreen usage among Americans today has decreased by nearly 60 percent, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Dermatology. Could the lack of sun safety behavior be contributing to the ever-increasing skin cancer incidence and mortality? Certainly, the world's most common cancer could be easily prevented if we are proactive about choosing effective sunscreens and properly, proactively maximizing their efficacy.
Danielle M. White, CEO www.SunSavvy.net, offers a FREE newsletter including proper use of sunscreen & other sun protection products.
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