Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Myth Busting On Sun Protection

Awareness of the risk of skin cancer has driven alot of people to sunless tanning methods and using sunscreen for protection. But have you ever wondered about how safe from the risks of skin cancer you really are? And what is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

Basically in a simple nutshell, UVB rays are the rays we all love to hate. The ones that give us nasty sunburn and melanoma. So you put your sunblock on and go happily about your life assuming that your protected against the sun because you don't turn red.

Then there are the sneaky UVA rays which don't tell you what they are doing. There is no redness, no visible sign to look at and say hey I need to get out of the sun. They are the real culprit of premature aging, skin leathering and even cancer. The UVA rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin tissue wreaking havoc underneath the visible. The importance of UVA protection has been somewhat of a mystery to most and is just recently being marketed to the mainstream with broad spectrum sunblock.

There is a common misconception that using a tanning bed or booth is a safer way to tan. Some wil even tell you there is absolutely no risks at all.

Tanning Beds are NOT I repeat NOT a safe alternative to natural sunlight! These beds give off between 50% to 100% more harmful UV rays than natural sunlight and have the same damaging effects if not more! The only difference is you get your damage in controlled amounts possibly avoiding an uncomfortable sunburn and you spend less time working on your tan than you would laying out in the sun.

Then there is the whole deal with SPF protection. Here in the US you can get sunblock with SPF 70+. So how do you know how much SPF you need? Should everyone use mega strength sunblock every day?

The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended use of at least SPF 15 for every day use. Sunscreens chemically absorb the UV rays to a certain degree. No sunscreen will block 100% of the rays from the sun but SPF 15 should absorb about 93% of the rays from the sun. SPF 30 absorbs about 97% of the harmful rays and SPF 50+ blocks about 98%. So twice the SPF factor does NOT mean twice the protection.

When choosing the proper SPF protection from your skin, you need to factor in your natural skin type. If you are a fair skinned person who burns at the first sight of sunlight, those few extra percentages may make a difference in how long you can stay in the sun. If you have a previous experience with skin cancer, you also need to be extra careful.

And just because you have naturally darker skin or have developed a "base tan", this does not mean you are impervious to the effects of the sun. While you may not burn as easily, damage still occurs causing premature aging, sagging and cancer. You will need to use at least 15% SPF broad spectrum sunblock.

It is best to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply 15 to 30 minutes into your sunny day. You should reapply your sunblock every 2 to 3 hours. Theoretically sunblock should last 5+ hours, but it really depends on your skin, the activities involved such as swimming and sweating and that particular brand of sunscreen and its ingredients. Don't wait until you see signs of redness to apply sunblock. The redness is a sign of damage occurring and you have another 15 to 30 minutes of damage that can happen before the sunblock takes effect.

For the life of me I cannot understand why people think they need a tan . Beautiful skin shouldn't be judged by its color. Dry leathery skin isn't pretty. Beautiful, healthy, fresh skin is what we all want no matter what color we are.
So be that beautiful flower that you are and share what you know. Maybe you will save someone's life or at least keep them from looking like an old work boot.


  1. oh Erryn tht picture!! ewwww!!! Yes with great fake tans on the market, why risk the old boot look at all? Very interesting post. I highly regret my youth going to lie on a sunbed... Good to know all the facts, thank you! xx

  2. Informative post, as always, Erryn! People should be made more aware that an increase in the SPF number does not proportionally correspond with an increase in protection.