There is no such thing as a healthy tan, but we hope you knew that already.
A tan equals damaged skin, and if you don’t agree, consider this fact: More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined. A sunburn or even unprotected sun exposure can place you at greater risk.
Do we have your attention?
Of course, everyone flocks to the store to buy sunscreen before a day at the beach. Putting on sunscreen is the easy part. But what type of sunscreen is right for you? What do SPF and UVA and UVB mean? When you read the labels, it can be a confusing case of “alphabet soup.”
If you’re puzzled, you’re not alone. A survey published in a dermatology journal stated that less than 50 percent of dermatology clinic patients knew the definitions commonly used when describing sunscreen. Therefore, we’ve compiled this useful list of tips that can help you select the right sunscreen.
Helpful Tips for Selecting the Right Sunscreen
How can you tell if your sunscreen is effective? Take your cue from the American Academy of Dermatology. They suggest that the most effective sunscreens:
- Have an SPF of 30 or higher
- Offer broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays
- Are water-resistant (Note that there is no such thing as a sunscreen that is 100 percent waterproof)
What are UVA and UVB rays?
UVA and UVB rays are types of ultraviolet radiation. This type of radiation primarily comes from the sun, but it’s also prevalent in tanning beds—which is one of the reasons you should avoid them. According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers result from extensive exposure to these ultraviolet rays.
UVA rays can cause your skin to age prematurely, while UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn. An easy way to remember this is that the A in UVA can stand for “aging,” while the B in UVB can stand for “burning.” A good sunscreen will protect you from both.
What Does SPF mean?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. This number indicates the effectiveness of the sunscreen and how well it will protect you from sunburn. For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 protects you from 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, while an SPF of 30 protects you from 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
The American Academy of Dermatology always recommends using an SPF of at least 30 or higher.
There is no “Perfect” Sunscreen
Sunscreen cannot filter out 100 percent of the sun’s damaging rays. Therefore, in addition to using sunscreen, it’s important to follow these tips:
- Avoid the sun when its rays are the most intense, which is typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Wear long-sleeve shirts and protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats to keep from getting sun on your head, neck or face.
- Remember that sand, snow and water increase your risk of getting sunburned because these reflect the sun’s rays.
Are You Applying Sunscreen Correctly?
Did you know that most people use less than half of the recommended amount of sunscreen? It’s not effective if not applied properly. Remember:
- Use sunscreen every time you’re outside—not just when you’re at the beach for vacation.
- Use sunscreen on cloudy days, which can expose you to up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology
- Cover all exposed skin—and don’t forget the top of your feet and your ears!
- Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you are exposed to the sun.
- Apply sunscreen every two hours when you’re outdoors.
- Apply about one ounce of sunscreen—enough to almost fill a shot glass.
- Protect your lips with a balm that has at least an SPF of 30.
- Replace your sunscreen every three years—always check the expiration date!
Is It Skin Cancer?
If caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. But how can you tell if you should have that mole checked out? Well, you should have a yearly skin cancer screening with a dermatologist just as you would have a yearly physical with a family doctor or internal medicine physician. This will enable them to discover any changes in your moles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a simple way to remember the signs of melanoma—an aggressive type of skin cancer—is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es.
- “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the area in question have an irregular shape?
- “B” stands for border. If it’s irregular or jagged, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.
- “C” is for color. Is the color uneven? Has the color become darker or lighter?
- “D” is for diameter. If it is larger than the size of a pea, you should get it checked.
- “E” is for evolving. It’s important for you to inspect any moles so you can discover if it has changed in the last few weeks or months.
Do You Have Any Concerns About Your Health? We Want to Be a Partner in Your Care
At Conway Medical Center, we have leading physicians and state-of-the-art technology that combine to create care that is both compassionate and innovative. Our expertise and experience have made us the facility of choice for the region. If you have questions about our services, please contact us today. We look forward to meeting you and welcome the opportunity to serve you.
Conway Medical Center is a trusted leader in healthcare and has served the medical needs of Horry County and surrounding communities for nearly a century.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Sunscreen FAQs.” Online.
American Cancer Society. “Choose the Right Sunscreen.” Online.
Centers for Disease Control. “Skin Cancer Basic Information.” Online.
Skin Cancer Foundation. “Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics.” Online.