Skin Shield

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The hottest months of the year are here, and protecting your skin from harmful sunrays is a summer trend you should keep up all year round.

The sun is shining more strongly than during the rest of the year, and that’s when most of us remember that sunscreen is a must (though it is actually important 365 days of the year, sunrays are sunrays in any season). But with summertime here, there’s nothing better than to talk about sun protection.

SPF is an acronym for sun protection factor; it indicates how well a product protects you from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The numbers that come after the acronym denote the amount of time it takes for the sun to redden the skin. A product with SPF30 will take the sun 30 times longer to burn the skin than if it were without protection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a product with SPF30 allows approximately 3% of UVB rays to hit your skin, and a product with SPF50 allows about 2%.

Why should you wear sunscreen? The ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause skin cancer, and sunburn damages skin cells and blood vessels; repeated injury weakens skin making it easy to bruise. Also, too much sun exposure causes facial ageing signs such as wrinkles, pigmentation, and texture degradation.

And what is UV radiation? It is invisible to human eyes and part of sunlight that includes visible light and heat. The UV rays are divided into three types. UVA accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. UVA has a long wavelength that can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. These rays are also responsible for immediate tanning contributing to skin wrinkling and ageing. UVB is partially blocked by the atmosphere, has a medium wavelength, and cannot penetrate deeper than the superficial layers of skin. UVB is responsible for delayed tanning and sunburn. It can also enhance skin ageing and promote skin cancer development. And last, UVC, a short wavelength that is totally blocked by Earth’s atmosphere and not a concern in sun exposure.

How should you choose your sun protection? There are two types of creams: sunscreen, made with chemical defences that penetrate the skin and absorb the UV rays before they damage the dermal layers; and sunblock, which sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier to the sun’s rays. Some sunscreens include avobenzone, oxybenzone and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), ingredients that absorb the sun’s rays. Sunblocks commonly contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide and are often opaque and noticeable when applied to the skin. Most brands combine the two, sunscreen and sunblock, in their formulas to best protect the skin.

However, your skin type should be taken into consideration when choosing the best product for you. People with sensitive skin tend to tolerate sunblocks better, while fragrances, preservatives and oxybenzone are not the best picks for allergy-prone skin. Consult a doctor if you have any particular condition.

Other important aspects to take into consideration:

– Read the labels and opt for a broad-spectrum product (that protects from both rays, UVA and UVB), don’t rely on facial creams that already contain sun protection; most of the time, they don’t have broad-spectrum coverage.

– Look for water-resistant products; this will mean that they will be effective for around 40 minutes in the water; you will have to reapply after that. You also should apply it 30 minutes before the sun exposure and reapply every two hours if you don’t enter the water.

– There is a myth that if you tan well or have a dark complexion, you don’t need sun protection. Health experts advise that everyone, regardless of skin colour, should wear sun protection. Dark-skinned people might have a higher concentration of melanin; however, that does not mean they won’t suffer the harmful aspects of UV rays such as sunspots, wrinkles and even cancer.

– Don’t rely on high-SPF sunscreen alone. Applying sunscreen or sunblock is just one crucial part of keeping you protected. Seeking shade and covering up with clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses are the other mechanisms to keep your skin free from damage.

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