There are many things in our environment that the skin needs protection from. The most common and important form of skin protection is from the sun. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer at all stages.
When talking about the sun and skin, there are two main ultraviolet (UV) rays that are discussed. The first is long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and the second is short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) and it is important to know that though they are different, both types are harmful to the skin. UVA rays, which are present throughout the day, penetrate deep past the epidermis and into the skin’s dermis layer and are mostly the cause of premature aging/wrinkles but can contribute to skin cancer. UVB rays, which are strongest between 10:00AM – 4:00PM, are responsible for burning the skins surface (sunburn) and the development of skin cancer.
Sun Exposure and Aging:
Frequent and unprotected exposure to the sun can not only dry out skin and deplete oils, but this UV radiation can cause burning and long-term changes in the structure of the skin. When UV radiation reaches us, the skin begins to produce melanin, a pigment responsible for preventing radiation from penetrating your skin (and simultaneously darkening it, which is why you get a tan). While both types of UV rays play a part in the aging process, UVA rays are mainly responsible for skin damage referred to as photoaging, or premature aging of the skin in the form of leathery texture, wrinkles, freckles and other markings. This happens as UVA rays reach the dermis layer of the skin and damage collagen, which makes the skin lose elasticity and become leathery. Furthermore, when collagen is destroyed in the skin, enzymes called metalloproteinases are created that attempt to rebuild the damaged collagen. However, this process often malfunctions and begin to rebuild skin incorrectly, forming wrinkles.
Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer:
As the most common form of cancer, skin cancer is known as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It is the most advanced form of damage from unprotected sun exposure and happens when UV radiation causes DNA damage to skin cells. Once there is genetic damage to the skin, the body will begin to grow skin cells out of control, leading to formation of tumors that can be cancerous. There are three major types of skin cancers called basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Though all types of skin cancers should be treated, melanoma is the most dangerous and deadly.
When you are at risk:
Sun protection products and measures should be part of any daily routine, no matter the location, weather, or environment. However, there are certain conditions where the skin is especially at risk:
- In areas near the earth’s equator because of the sun’s position
- In high altitude because there is less atmospheric protection between you and the sun
- During summer months
- During peak daylight (10:00AM – 4:00PM)
- When exposed to snow, sand, and water because of reflective properties
How to protect:
You should limit your sun exposure when possible, and when you will be outside always be sure to cover as much skin as possible, wear hats, and of course, use a broad spectrum sunscreen on any exposed areas. Even if you don’t think you will be exposed to the sun, sunscreen should still be applied at least daily.
The SPF Factor – Using Sunscreen:
There are sunscreens available in many different forms and with varying protection levels. All sun protection products will list an SPF level, but the higher number does not necessarily mean your skin will be more protected. SPF stands for sun-protection factor, which is a measure of how long a product will protect you from UVB rays. It is simply a measure of the amount of time skin will be protected, NOT a measure of how much exposure is being blocked. So, it is important to understand that while there are products available ranging from SPF 7 to SPF 70, it is sufficient to use a product that is SPF 15 or SPF 30 and reapply frequently.
- Sunscreen should be applied approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun and reapplied frequently through the day, especially after contact with water or exercising.
- When purchasing a sunscreen, choose a broad-spectrum product to ensure that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two key ingredients to look for in sunscreen products.
- If you are using it on your face, choose a product that is non-comedogenic to prevent clogged pores.
The SLMD Daily Moisturizer w/ SPF 15 provides broad-spectrum sun protection and hydrating ingredients to keep skin moisturized and protected.