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Too Much Sun Isn't A Bright Idea

Armen Hareyan's picture

Skin Protection from Sun

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays, it's best to mind your SPFs.

Many people have heard of Sun Protection Factor, but few understand the difference between SPF 15, 30 and 45. SPF indicates how much protection from the sun the product will provide. To determine what works best for you, multiply the SPF by the amount of time it normally takes you to burn. In the example below, 10 minutes has been designated.

  • SPF 15 x 10 minutes = 150 minutes. This means you can be in the sun approximately 2.5 hours without getting burned.

  • SPF 30 x 10 minutes = 300 minutes. This indicates you can be in the sun 5 hours without getting burned.

  • SPF 45 x 10 minutes = 450 minutes. You can stay in the sun approximately 7.5 hours without burning. SPFs higher than 30 or 45 offer only slightly more protection and need to be used by people who are extremely sensitive to the sun.

"Sunblocks may work better than sunscreens because they physically block the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from penetrating the skin, unlike sunscreens which contain chemicals that absorb a portion of the UV radiation," said Dr. Ramsey Markus, an assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Sunblocks containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are excellent at preventing UV damage, however some patients prefer sunscreens to sunblock because they tend to be less 'pasty' appearing."

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An SPF of 15 is best for daily use by people who spend the majority of their day indoors. An SPF of 30 or greater is better for those who are out in the sun for extended periods of time.

Too much sun early in life can lead to conditions including premature aging, freckling, liver spots, broken blood vessels and skin cancer.

Markus offers the following tips to protect skin from the sun's harmful rays:

  • Stay inside or seek shade during peak hours of radiation, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tightly woven clothing helps to block radiation from reaching your skin, while loosely woven fabrics allow radiation to pass through.

  • Use a wide brimmed hat or sun visor to protect your head and neck. Baseball caps do not provide protection for your neck, the sides of your face or your ears.

  • Even if your sunblock is waterproof or sweatproof, reapply every two hours. Apply generously to all exposed skin surfaces 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply after swimming or after heavy perspiration.

"Applying sunblock daily is the most important thing we can do to protect and preserve our skin," Markus said. "Taking the necessary steps to prevent sun damage early in life decreases the chance of developing sun-related conditions later in life."