10 Sep 2021
Let’s be honest…the sun is fun. The best things to do are outdoors whether it’s frolicking through the surf, cozying up in a chair with a favorite beach read, paddle boarding across a beautiful lake, fishing in a kayak, biking an iconic path, dining outdoors, or picnicking in a secluded spot on the beach. Unfortunately, it’s not safe to spend so much time in the sun without adequate protection. We’re talking about sunblock. Of course, with so many different types and SPFs (sun protection factors), it’s hard to know what to choose what’s best. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your skin.
Why Do I Need Sunblock?
First, as noted and as you’ve probably heard your entire life, the sun’s rays damage your skin. Not only do ultraviolet (UV) rays contribute to aging, but they can also cause severe burns and can lead to skin cancer.
What You Should Know about UVA & UVB Rays
The sun actually has two kinds of UV rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) these are:
UVA rays. UVA rays are the kinds of rays that can pass through car windows and age the leather. Consequently, these are the rays that also age your skin causing wrinkles, skin spots, and premature aging.
UVB rays. UVB rays are the dangerous burning rays that cause you to cook like a rotisserie chicken when you’re in the sun for too long.
Research shows that both kinds of UV rays are carcinogenic meaning they can cause cancer. Overexposure and exposure without protection substantially increase your risk of adverse health effects from the sun.
How to Choose an SPF?
Thus, this now begs the question as to how to choose an SPF best for protecting your valuable derma from the sun’s UV rays. Importantly, there is no 100% protection from the sun’s rays other than staying indoors.
That said, you are going to block 97% of the sun’s rays if you go with a protection of SPF 30 or higher. Needless to say, because lighter skin tones absorb more light, if you are very pale then you will want to consider a higher SPF. For those with darker skin tones, even though you may tan well or not appear to get sunburn, you still need that SPF 30 (or higher) to protect your skin from damaging and aging rays.
When you do choose an SPF, make sure it’s broad spectrum as only broad spectrum will provide a barrier against both UVA and UVB rays.
What Kind of Sunscreen is Best: Gel, Lotion, or Spray?
Now that you know you need to choose an SPF that’s at least 30, you should also be advised on what kind of SPF is best. There are so many options between gels, lotions, and sprays. Each has pros and cons. Here’s how to know what kind of SPF to choose:
Lotions provide great coverage and are the only type of sun screens that can or should be used on the face. Lotions should be applied liberally—at least two tablespoons on average. More or less should be applied depending on the size of the person.
Gels are ideal for people who have a lot of body hair but who need protection. They get less from lotions because of distribution and absorption.
Spray sun screens are very convenient but should never be used on the face. Spray sun screens should be applied until your skin appears wet. Rub the sunblock in to ensure full coverage. Note it’s dangerous to inhale fumes from spray sunscreens, which is why it’s best to use lotions with children. Additionally, avoid using spray sunscreens when you are going to be at a bonfire or grilling because the fumes are flammable.
Children under the age of 6 months should have a sunblock rubbed into their skin. Sunscreens allow some radiation penetration. Sunblock is made from zinc and titanium oxides that reflect the sun’s UV rays.
Using Your SPF: Best Practices
So, to summarize, the best practices on what SPF you should wear (and how) are:
There’s no sunscreen that’s 100% effective, but you need at least an SPF of 30 or higher.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours if you’re outdoors regardless of your activity.
Apply sunscreen generously—at least two tablespoons worth of lotion should be used to cover your skin.
Don’t forget your hard-to-reach and forgettable places like ears, behind the ears, back of the neck, under the arms, tops of the feet, etc.
Avoid inhaling sprayable sunscreen as the chemicals are hazardous.
Avoid wearing sprayable sunscreen around bonfires and grills.
Use gel sunscreen if you’re hairy.
Babies need sunblock, not sunscreen, to protect their precious skin.
Finally, never enjoy fun in the sun without sunscreen. Remember, UVA rays cause premature aging and wrinkles, UVB rays burn your skin, and both types of the sun’s UV rays are associated with cancer. With a good SPF of 30 or higher and heavy, regular application, though, you can afford yourself significant protection from the sun’s harmful rays and spend your days basking in all of the good times to be had when skies are bright.
If you’re at the beach and forgot the SPF (or didn’t bring a strong enough one), not to worry! Your vacation rental company can direct you to finding the best skin protection around. My Vacation Haven is about more than finding you the perfect place to stay; we also want to make sure you have fun and stay safe in the beautiful sunshine, which is why we offer multiple services for your convenience. Contact us to learn more!