Sunscreen Facts – Are You Using It Correctly?

Do You Know Your Sunscreen Facts?

Everyone should take time to make sure they know their sunscreen facts and understand how overexposure to UVA and UVB radiation may lead to some serious health problems.

The risk of some skin cancers developing can be significantly reduced but its numbers are on the rise. Experts are constantly advising us on the importance of staying out of the sun and using sunscreen daily, even when not in the sun.

Sunscreen Facts. UV radiation penetrates the epidermis and not only damages the colagen and elastin, but also the DNA inside skin cells causing accellerated skin ageing and possibly skin cancer

What is UVA radiation?

I think this is one of the sunscreen facts people should have more awareness of. UVA and UVB radiation from sunlight are considered carcinogenic; if this was more understood, the general public may be more inclined to protect themselves and their loved-ones. There are two types of radiation, both are harmful and affect the skin in different ways.

UVA rays penetrate through the skin right down through the top layer and into the fatty tissue uderneath. This is where collagen and elastin are found which keep our skin looking taught and youthful. Constant exposure to UVA rays damages these vital fibres causing lines and deep-set wrinkles to develop, which we know as ‘accellerated skin aging’.

Much of UVB radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer, (or at least it was until it started depeating due to global warming and the effects of CO2 emissions). UVB is directly responsible for sunburn as it only affects the top layer of the skin and is considered most harmful due to its role in causing skin cancer.

How does sunscreen work?

Most sunscreens work by providing a simple barrier to the skin which filters out harmful UVB rays (although many brands now use UVA and UVB protecting ingredients). Reflecting sunscreens bounce the rays directly off the skin. Scattering types are similar to reflecting, but rather than bouncing in one direction, the rays are scattered in several directions. Depending on which ingredients are used, a brand of sunscreen may use deflecting or scattering methods to protect the skin.

Sun Protection Factor

Every sunscreen must have an SPF written on it to tell you how much protection it offers. If you are like me, your skin will burn in under 10 minutes if you are fair and freckly. I always use an SPF of 30 or above, this means I have 30 times longer in the sun before my skin will burn, giving me 300 minutes in total.

A common misconception in sunscreen facts is the belief that sunbathing is okay as long as sunscreen is used. This is wrong. While sunscreens can offer some protection if used correctly, none offer 100% protection from UV rays. Prolonged exposure to the sun, even limited by sunscreen, may still cause skin cancer.

Best Sunscreen?

It is without doubt that a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen in best. Preferably one that is water resistant with an SPF of 30 or above (15 at an absolute minimum). Broad spectrum means that it helps protect against UVB and UVA which many manufacturers are now producing.

There are two different types of sunscreen; chemical and natural. Chemical sunscreens are as it says, they are made up of chemical ingredients such as avobenzone or a benzophenone which in some people can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. More natural sunsreens use compounds such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (my personal choice). These offer maximum protection against UVA and UVB by reflecting and scattering the radiation. Make sure when you are buying your sunscreen, you take time to check the ingredients and find a brand that you are happy with and that meets your SPF requirements.

Correct Sunscreen Use

One of the most important sunscreen facts – when used properly, sunscreen can be effective. However, most people do not use sunscreen like they should. Not using enough nor reapplying as often as needed are common mistakes. The average person needs one ounce, approximately the amount in a shot glass, for proper use over exposed areas. Sunscreen should be applied fifteen to thirty minutes prior to going outdoors to ensure it has properly absorbed deep enought into the skin, and reapplied every two hours. If swimming or sweating a lot, make sure you use a water resistant brand and reapply it every forty minutes.

A serious precancerous condition called actinic cheilitis can be caused by radiation damage to the lips, so care should be taken to apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen to prevent them from being harmed by the sun.

Sunsreen for Babies

Research has shown that sunburn in a baby or in early infancy greatly increases the risk of skin cancer later in life. Just one blistering sunburn or five lesser sunburns can DOUBLE the risk of melanoma according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. Infants and children are especially susceptible to sunburns so the use of sunscreen for babies is vital to help protect their skin. These products are designed to be gentler on their skin than traditional products used by adults. Many formulas are hypo-allergenic and there are spray and wipe varieties to make application easier.

Don’t make the mistake of forgoing the use of sunscreen on a cloudy day as UV radiation can still penetrate your skin, ultimately though, keep all young children out of direct sunlight…their skin is YOUR responsibility!


In addition to the use of sunscreen, everyone should make an effort to limit time spent in the sun. This is especially true in peak UV hours between 10 AM and 4 PM. Barriers to the sun should be used. Those who have a higher risk of sunburn such as children, pale skinned individuals or those on medications that increase photo-sensitivity should use caution while in the sun.

Just knowing your sunscreen facts could mean the difference between your or your loved ones being diagnosed with skin cancer in the future.

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