Summer's here at long last! It's time for sun glasses, popsicles, flip-flops and family beach excursions. While summer can offer some of the year's best times -- gifting us with warm temperatures, breathtaking weather and happiness- exposure to the sun's rays can also be damaging to our bodies. We thought it was a perfect time to discuss 6 things you should know about sunscreen.
1. What does SPF stand for?
The "SPF" you see on those bottles stands for "sun protection factor," which measures the length of time a product protects you against UVB rays before your skin begins to burn. Generally speaking, multiplying the time it takes your skin to naturally burn by the SPF number, i.e., 15, 30 or 50, will yield your protection time. So theoretically, if it takes you 25 minutes to burn with no protection, SPF 15 would protect you for 6 hours and 15 minutes while SPF 30 would protect you for 12 and a half hours. But it's important to remember SPF shouldn't be taken at face value. Other variables affect how long they provide protection -- but we'll get to that later.
2. "Baby," "Sport," and "Waterproof" options are just marketing terms
It's easy for consumers to be influenced by different categories of sunscreen, but it's important to keep in mind that they don't exactly deliver as advertised. There's no such thing as "Waterproof" sunscreen and it's even illegal for companies to claim they are. Additionally, "Sport" sunscreen still requires reapplication after sweating and while products labeled "Baby" might be gentler on young children's skin and/or include fewer ingredients, it is recommended that small children wear protective clothing and hats in strong sunlight conditions.
3. One ounce is enough
Ask ten people how much sunscreen they apply and you may get ten different answers! A safe visual guideline to follow is 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. That's the amount dermatologists consider adequate to cover areas of your body that are exposed -- though the amount should be adjusted for your specific body size. As a general rule, be sure to use enough sunscreen to generously coat all areas of exposed skin including face, ears and neck. But make sure not to forget balm for your lips, they can burn too.
4. Yes, you really do need to reapply
While it's fair to think companies that sell sunscreen would want to sell as much product as possible, the directions on the bottle are still important. The big problem with sunscreen is that as soon as it's exposed to UV rays, it starts to break down. You should remember to reapply every two hours; if you're sweating and/or swimming, you'll need to apply more often. Never rely on sunscreen to provide more than a limited period of protection; and should be augmented by other safeguards such as hats, umbrellas and/or long-sleeved shirts.
5. The sun doesn't discriminate
The sun pays no attention to the color of your skin or if you already have a tan. Sunlight exposes all exposed skin to harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. While extremely-pale individuals are at higher risk for developing skin cancer, it certainly doesn't give those with darker skin a free pass to indiscriminately bake in the sun for hours.
6. Toss those old bottles!
Most sun care products break down over time, losing efficacy after approximately three years. . It will break down quicker if it's been left in your car, bag or other areas that are exposed to heat. Additionally, microbes can infiltrate and multiply in those aged, partially-used bottles and nobody likes the idea of smearing bacteria all over their bodies! If you're using the recommended amount, there's no reason a bottle should ever last three years.
The primary reason for sunscreen is to protect us from harmful UV rays that can cause Melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society,
an estimated 76,380 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016.
Whether you're a student at one of our Buffalo Catholic schools, a parent or just a beach-lover who's concerned about staying healthy in the sun -- remember to use plenty of sunscreen this summer. All of us at Western New York Catholic schools are sending you our best wishes for a fun and safe summer. See you at the beach!