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Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Updated on June 19, 2013
Excessive sun exposure is not a good thing for your skin
Excessive sun exposure is not a good thing for your skin

How Does Sunscreen Work

Sunscreen works by shielding your skin's surface from UV rays. Your skin will not be 100% protected.

Light can be viewed as waves or particles. Because sunscreen is chemically made of particles, this would be the better analogy of the two.

Light particles are called photons. So when the sun bombards the skin with photons, the sun screen will block out most of these particles.

Find Sunscreen That Protects the Skin From Both UVA and UVB Rays

There are two types of UV rays that are marked on the packaging of sunscreen

1) UVA

2) UVB

UVA rays are the most damaging to the skin. These wavelengths are more intense than UVB. This is because the wavelengths are longer and can reach deeper layers of the skin, leading to wrinkles and other forms of photodamage.

The levels of these rays are consistent all year round.

UVB rays are strongest in the summer time. They mostly affect just the top layer of the skin known as the epidermis. And they will cause sunburns.

Both UVA and UVB rays can contribute to skin cancer


The Scoop on SPF

According to Web MD, SPF (sun protection factor) is a measurement of how long it would take you to sunburn if you were not wearing sunscreen.

How Effective Are the Different SPFs?

  • An SPF of 15 blocks out 94% of UV rays
  • An SPF of 30 blocks out 97% of UV rays
  • An SPF of 45 blocks out 98% of UV rays

So it is important to realize that an SPF of 30 is not twice as good as an SPF of 15.

Sundamage for Protecting Against Premature Aging

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Wearing sunscreen everyday is essential for preventing premature aging.

How Does the Sun Create Wrinkles?

UV rays from the sun will interact with the molecules on your skin. And they can change the structure of oxygen molecules by causing them to lose an electron. Due to this loss, they will become very unstable and try to steal electrons from other molecules.

They will take an electron. And those molecules will then be missing an electron and try to take from other places. This causes a chain reaction that damages your tissues.

In particular this will weaken the structure of collagen fibers which are responsible for your skin's firmness. The degradation of these fibers will lead to wrinkles.

Zinc Oxide As An Active Ingredient

Zinc Oxide will physically block out UV rays. Many other active ingredients require a chemical reaction in order to do this. However there are potential health risks associated with this.

Here is an article from Dr. Victoria Maizes on the Dr. Oz show: Safer Sunscreen.

Livestrong also gives more information on the benefits of zinc oxide for sunscreen

Correcting Existing Photo Damage

You may already be aware of how important it is to use a sunscreen regularly. If you already have existing sun damage on your skin, it may not be too late to reverse this. There are now many tools available in dermatology that can repair collagen, elastin and get rid of age spots.

A dermatologist can also treat precancerous lesions like Actinic Keratosis, or remove the early stages of skin cancer.


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