Sunscreen is necessary to shield skin form sunlight which contains two types of harmful rays called ultra violet or UVA and UVB respectively which can harm your skin. When we are excessively exposed to the sun’s UV rays, we tend to get sunburned.
A history of severe burns can lead to skin conditions such as wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer. The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. Sun screen protection is very important to prevent skin damage. Sunburns and tanning are both damaging to the skin; therefore, we must take precautions if we are going to be in the sun for 15 minutes or more.
Besides the cancer threat, overexposure to UV rays can result in damage to the immune system and eye health. UVA rays contain long wavelengths; these rays enter deep into the skin. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA; these rays penetrate the superficial layers of the skin. UVB rays are the strongest of the sun’s rays that penetrate the northern hemisphere. Thus, these rays are the most damaging. Very little of the UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer above the earth. There is another type of UV light, and that is UVC; however, UVC light does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere. If those rays could penetrate our atmosphere, they could prove fatal to us.
How does sunscreen prevent cancer?
The way to prevent skin cancer (from photosensitivity) is to prevent your skin from burning. We use sunscreen to absorb, scatter or reflect the sun’s rays on our skin. Sunscreens are accessible in different forms like lotions, creams, ointments, sprays, and gels. All these forms contain SPF (sun protection factor) numbers. The higher the SPF number, the greater protection it gives you prevent sunburn. Some types of sunscreens, known as broad-spectrum sunscreens, reflect both the harmful rays of UVA and UVB. Sunscreens help greatly to protect the skin from other skin conditions, such as sun rashes and photo dermatitis, caused by sun damage.
Sunscreens are prepared to chemically absorb UV radiation and stop it from reaching to your skin. Sunscreens are also designed to block or reflect UV radiation. Sunscreens generally have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which helps in scattering UV radiation.
What are broad-spectrum sunscreens?
Broad-spectrum sunscreens have a number of chemicals which absorb, reflect or scatter UV rays. These sunscreens are some of the most commonly used and most effective sunscreens.
Because all sunscreens are not equal; some don’t protect your skin from both types of damaging UV rays. It is important to choose the type of sunscreen that will protect you the most. When you go to purchase sunscreen, be sure to take note of the SPF number. The higher SPF numbers will offer you the best protection. If you have had skin cancer in the past, ask your doctor what type of sunscreen and what SPF number would protect you the most.
Things which may influence how well a sunscreen works
If you don’t use sunscreens in proper way, even the best sunscreens won’t protect you significantly. You should follow manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions given in the product leaflet.
Below are some things which can reduce sunscreen’s effectiveness:
Not applying sunscreen as directed
Not repeating applications as directed
Not repeating applications after swimming
Drying off with a towel and not reapplying (drying off can remove the sunscreen)
For best results with sunscreen, you must reapply as necessary. Your doctor may ask you to moderate your time in the sun. For instance, your doctor may tell you to stay indoors when the UV rays are the strongest (during the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM).
Author’s note: I use an SPF number 30 sun block when I go into the sun for any length of time. I have had two cases of skin cancer (not melanoma) on my face. I am almost positive that my skin cancers were caused by getting so many severe sunburns in my teenage and more recent years. Since I started using sun block, I have had no other skin cancer anywhere on my body.