Thursday, July 25, 2013

Understanding UV Safety Month: A Sunscreen 101

by Catherine Carlton, volunteer contributor 

There’s a lot of alphabet soup and numbers when it comes to finding the right sun protection. In honor of UV Safety Month, the American Red Cross recommends these sun and UV safety tips: 
  • Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  • Wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. 
  • Reapply your sunscreen often. 
  • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb at least 90 percent of UV sunlight. 
But what does that really mean? It means if you don’t take proper precautions you could have sunburn which could lead to serious diseases like sun stroke and skin cancer. Let’s dive deeper into what these recommendations mean. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation states: “sunscreens are products combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. Two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.” 

The SPF – or Sun Protection Factor – you are used to checking when buying sunscreen is the measure of the sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. It is generally recommended the higher the number, the better the protection. An example from the Skin Care Foundation is “if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours.” 

That’s the letters and numbers, but it’s really about you and diligently taking care of your skin. And if you have kids, you must take extra care with them. And it’s no easy feat. The New York Times recently did a photo essay showing the “battle” of screening kids from the sun. When I shared it with one of my best friends, April who has 2-year-old twins, she said: “Nice to know we're not alone... ours insist we "take it off" after we put sunscreen on, which means we say abracadabra and wave our hands around wildly.” 

That sounds like a pretty good result to me. Reminding your children that a few moments of waiting before going out and putting lotion on will keep itchy and painful burns away later, as well as more severe heat illnesses. Protection and laughter are the greatest cures! 

Check out this video from our friends at the FDA:

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I am the kind of person who uses an all natural sunscreen all year round. I have very fair skin and get sunburn when I have my arm hanging out the car window for 10 minutes, even in the winter. I am always looking up new information on sunscreen. Thanks so much for sharing.


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