8 Questions You Have About Sunscreen Answered

The appeal of a bronzed, sun-kissed tan is a powerful draw for many of us, especially during the sunny months. We relish the compliments on our ‘healthy’ glow and the soothing warmth of the sun on our skin.

Yet, this allure often overshadows the harmful effects of overexposure to the sun.

Each tan represents a response to skin damage, a potential precursor to premature skin aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.

What Exactly Does Sunscreen Do?

Sunscreen acts like a shield against the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which penetrate through your skin and cause sunburns, skin aging, and increase the risk of skin cancer. It works by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight on the skin.

These products contain organic and inorganic chemicals that filter the sun’s UV radiation, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of the skin.

How Often Should I Apply Sunscreen?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen to any exposed skin every time you are outside during the day.

Sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours of sun exposure.

If you are sweating heavily or swimming, you may need to reapply sunscreen more frequently, regardless of the SPF level.

Is a Higher SPF Always Better?

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how effectively a sunscreen product will protect your skin from UVB rays, the primary type of solar radiation that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer.

While a higher SPF provides more protection, the increase becomes less significant after SPF 30. SPF 30 blocks nearly 97% of UVB radiation, SPF 50 blocks about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%.

Can I Skip Sunscreen on a Cloudy Day?

UV rays penetrate through clouds, fog, and even glass. Therefore, wearing sunscreen is necessary regardless of the weather condition.

Around 40% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth’s surface on a completely cloudy day, which can still cause skin damage.

Does Sunscreen Expire?

Yes, like all cosmetic products, sunscreen does have an expiry date, after which it begins to lose its effectiveness.

The FDA requires all sunscreens to carry an expiration date unless the product has been proven to remain stable for at least three years. Check the expiration date before applying sunscreen.

What are Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens?

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are manufactured to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. While UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns, UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing premature aging.

Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. Therefore, for complete protection, choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum coverage.

Is Sunscreen Enough for Complete Sun Protection?

While sunscreen plays a crucial role in protecting your skin from the sun, it doesn’t offer complete protection.

It should be generally used in combination with other protective measures like wearing sun-protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV radiation.