We love those hot, summer days. You know, the ones you spend lounging outside by the poor or hanging out with friends on the patio. But you know what can really put a damper on your favorite summer days? Sunburn. And it’s so preventable, we have to wonder why we’ve subjected ourselves to the searing pain of glowing red skin. Sun damage is more than just painful – it can cause premature aging of the skin and even skin cancer. That’s why we’ve rounded up a few sunscreen tips and tricks to get the most out of your summer days and protect your skin.
Know Your Numbers
Let’s talk SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor. It’s basically a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you.
10, 30, 50? How about 100? SPF comes in a wide array of levels of protection, so how can you possibly know which SPF level is best for you? A good rule of thumb is that the higher the SPF rating, the longer the sunscreen will protect you. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of the suns rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and SPF 50 blocks about 98%. So, in this case, more might be better, but there is a limit. For maximum protection, go for at least SPF 50.
Keep in mind that the intensity and strength of the sun rays are highly variable. The rays that fall on the Hawaiian beaches around noon in the middle of summer will be much stronger and much more dangerous than the sun ray’s on a Swedish beach in at Christmas. If you’re curious, many weather stations now provide daily UV indexes for your health.
Based on Activity
You’ll want to choose your sunscreen based on what you’re planning on doing outside. The same sunscreen you might use as a daily protectant while running errands isn’t going to cut it if you plan on going on a sweaty hike or taking a dip in the ocean.
Not all sunscreens are waterproof. If you know that you’re going to be getting sweaty, go for “sport” sunscreens. These types of sunscreens resist water and won’t melt off when you’re getting your sweat on.
It’s also important to understand the limits of each sunscreen carefully. Take note of the instructions on the back of the bottle. Most sunscreens will provide guidance on how often you’ll need to reapply.
UVA’s, B’s & C’s
As it turns out, the sun throws off all different kinds of light radiation that can harm your skin. UVA rays are the most dangerous and potent radiation that damage your skin and can cause more deadly form of skin cancer, like melanoma. However, UVB rays can ruin your day, too. While UVB rays don’t penetrate as deeply, they can still cause cellular damage in your skin that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.
We suggest that you always opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen to make sure you’re covered, no matter what you’ll be doing outside.
Chemical vs. Physical
How exactly do sunscreens block out the sun’s rays? There’s a couple different ways, and it depends on the materials and/or active chemicals in your sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens contain active chemicals that are designed to absorb the sun’s rays before they penetrate your skin. As the rays are absorbed, they interact with the chemicals. This interaction transforms harmful rays into heat, which is then released into the air. Chemical sunscreens are usually thinner and require fewer reapplications. But you’ll need to wait at least 20 minutes for the chemicals to become active on your skin before stepping out into the sun. Chemical sunscreens also might irritate sensitive skins.
On the other hand, physical sunscreens use ingredients that physically block the rays from penetrating your skin. You’ll often see ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide in physical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens can last longer, but might rub off or rinse off in humid or wet situations. They’re also naturally broad spectrum because of their density.
Don’t worry if you feel lost when it comes to understanding what you need to look for in a sunscreen. Because let’s face it – not everything can be as straightforward as finding that perfect pair of leggings. So go on and get out there! It’s time to finally enjoy that beautiful warm weather. We hope that these sunscreen tips and tricks make it a quick and easy trip to the drugstore to find your perfect protection buddy.