No matter where you live, sun protection for your skin is essential year-round. But now that its time for bathing suits, scanter clothing, and spending time by the water, we must really spread the sunscreen.
Knowledge of FDA nomenclature Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is great, but there is a lot more to sun protection than the information that is typically shared. For example, consider these things that you may not know:
- there is only a 1% increase in protection when going from SPF30(97%) to SPF50(98%)
- Critical Wave Length is more important than just an SPF number as this is the key to protection from both harmful UVA and UVB rays
- some products claiming very high SPF can be more harmful due to skin absorbtion of undesirable sun-filtering chemicals, all while delivering almost no more protection.
Sun Protection Science
Solar radiation travels in waves. The SPF system rates the level of Ultraviolet-B (UVB) or sunburn protection that a product provides. The system does not measure the dangers posed by UVA rays. These rays are responsible for premature aging and sun-induced skin cancer. Critical Wavelength (CW) is the most effective way to rate UVA protection. Solar radiation of 290nm (nanometers) to 400nm (the UVB-UVA range) is reproduced in a laboratory device designed to measure the amount of radiation absorbed by a sunscreen.
Starting at the beginning of the UVB range (290nm), progressively higher wavelengths of light are aimed at the sunscreen. A protective absorption curve or “umbrella” is produced. The Critical Wavelength® defines how far this umbrella (actually 90% of the umbrella) extends into the UVA range. So for a Critical Wavelength of 383nm, 90% of the sunscreen’s protective “umbrella” is between the beginning of the UVB range (290nm) to 383nm. The higher the number, the better. A sunscreen with a Critical Wavelength® over 370nm is considered Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
Check out our Coola Sunscreen products for a clean, sustainably-sourced, effective sun protection.
Freaky, Frightening Facts:
- Each year, skin cancer affects more people than breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers combined.
- The number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.
- About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. annually. Melanoma accounted for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015.
Safe Sun Practices:
- Apply a generous amount of broad spectrum sunscreen to all skin that will be exposed 15-30 minutes before going outdoors.
- Reapply immediately after swimming or sweating. The old traditional rule of thumb is that sun protection lasts for 1/10th of the SPF number, for example, an SPF 15 last 1.5 hours, SPF 30 lasts 3 hours, etc. However, this methodology drops off after SPF30, and more importantly, we strongly recommend (as do most knowledgeable health professionals) that you reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours. Don’t forget to educate the little ones. Good habits start early.
- The sun’s UV danger is strongest between 11am and 3pm. Seek shade between those hours. Is your left arm, hand, or side of your face more sun damaged e.g. dark spots? Our car windows act as magnifying glasses for damaging UV rays. This same factor is the basis of some studies that have shown pilots having an incidence of skin cancer far higher than that of the general population. Of course, if you drive in Britain, India, Australia, Turks & Caicos Islands, etc., the opposite rule applies for left-side driving! Use sun protection on a daily basis.
- Topical Vitamin C offers a potent defense against hyperpigmentation, free radicals, and UV damage. By applying our AD. Vitamin C Serum 20% (a 20 percent concentration of topical vitamin C) prior to your sunscreen, the extra C boosts the immune defense of your skin cells against UV damage.
- Take the time to examine your skin every month for changes in moles or drastic skin texture changes, and see a dermatologist annually. Your skin care professional also may notice something questionable, and in which case may recommend that you seek a dermatologist’s examination.
- Replace your sunscreen after 12 months. The formulas are tested for three years stability on the shelf, but the active ingredients, apart from physical mineral barriers such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, are quite reactive, and tend to degrade more quickly.
Enjoy the warm months ahead and pass the sunscreen!