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Shield Skin From Sun's Rays

Armen Hareyan's picture

Skin Care and Sun

With sweltering temperatures this summer, knowing what UVB, UVA and SPF stand for is important to keeping your skin healthy.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the sun's burning rays and are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which pass through window glass, penetrate deeper into the skin. They also contribute to sunburns and skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause suppression of the immune system which helps to protect you against the development and spread of skin cancer.

Before you decide to lay out by the pool, make sure that your sunscreen's Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is strong enough.

"Sunscreen is extremely important during these hot summer months, because the sun is an important factor in the development of skin cancer and in the aging of the skin," said Dr. Jodi Markus, an assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The sunscreen SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on sunscreen protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin.

Markus recommends that everyone use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It should have an SPF of at least 15, which offers 93 percent protection from the sun's UVB rays. If you burn easily, try SPF 30, which offers 97 percent protection, or go even higher. Sunscreen should be applied liberally, at least 30 minutes before going outdoors in order to allow it to be completely absorbed into the skin.

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Sunscreen works by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun's rays on the skin. Visible opaque sunblock creams can be either white or colored. These creams prevent light from entering the skin. They are useful for high-risk areas such as the nose, lips, and shoulders.

Another way of protecting your body from the sun's harmful rays is by adding sun protection products to your laundry. These laundry aids work by washing an invisible shield into clothing and lasts for up to 20 washes.

Sun protection helps prevent skin damage, wrinkles, and reduces the risk of developing skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.

Sun safety tips for good skin care:

  • Plan outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid peak sunlight hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

  • Use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 on all exposed skin, including the lips, even on cloudy days.

  • Wear protective, tightly-woven clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  • Re-apply sunscreen every two to four hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.