You probably know that SPF is a must for keeping your skin safe from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and early aging. But do you know why SPF is effective, and why skipping it is so dangerous?
What IS SPF, anyway?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor," and it’s the worldwide standard for measuring a sunscreen’s effectiveness. A higher SPF is better at protecting your skin. But what is your skin being protected against? The sun gives off three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.
What’s the difference between UV rays?
- UVA rays make up about 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. They can reach the lower levels of the skin, damaging cell DNA and causing premature aging. They also may contribute to some forms of skin cancer. If you’ve ever spent time in a tanning bed, you’ve been exposed to high levels of UVA rays.
- UVB rays make up a small percentage of UV rays, but can be the most damaging. These rays reach the top layers of the skin and damage cell DNA. The sunburn you experience after time spent in the sun (without SPF!) is mainly caused by UVB rays. These rays also are responsible for most skin cancers.
- UVC rays don’t get through the earth’s atmosphere, so you don’t have to worry about them—unless you sunbathe in space!
Do I REALLY need to bother with SPF?
You already know your body needs a few basic things to stay healthy—things like sleep, exercise and the right foods. Your skin deserves just as much care, so think of SPF as one of your skin’s basic needs. Without it, your skin could develop:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Uneven skin tone
- Dark spots
- Risk of melanoma, the most common type of skin cancer
When should I use SPF?
The short answer is: all the time!
UVB rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so sun protection is most important if you are outside during these hours. However, UV rays reach the earth…
…all hours of the day
…in all seasons and weather
…indoors or outdoors (Glass windows block UVB rays, but not UVA rays!)
Water, sand and snow also reflect the sun’s radiation, so SPF is a necessity whether you’re at the beach or on a ski vacation!
How do I get the most sun protection?
- Look for a sunscreen and a lip balm with “broad-spectrum protection”
- The American Cancer Society recommends using SPF 30 or higher
- Apply a handful of sunscreen to all exposed areas
- Reapply every two hours—or more often if you are swimming or sweating a lot
- Look for sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption
- Do not use artificial forms of UV light, such as tanning beds
- When applying sunscreen, don’t ignore your ears, neck, chest, hands and exposed scalp
- Never skip the SPF—even for a brisk 15-minute walk!
The benefits of wearing regular SPF may not be immediate, but your skin will repay you by looking its best for many years to come!
If you want to know how to reverse existing skin damage, Palo Alto can help! Contact us to schedule a consultation and determine the treatment or product that is best for you and your skin.