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SPF, UVB, and UVA: How to Choose the Best Sun Protection for Your Skin

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to educating the public about the risks of skin cancer and the importance of sun protection. At Est-Ethics Wellness Clinic, we are passionate about helping you maintain healthy, radiant skin. This blog will guide you through the different types of SPFs, what to consider when choosing one, and how to ensure your skin remains protected and healthy.

The Importance of Sun Protection

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting millions of people each year worldwide. There are three main types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma. The primary cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Protecting your skin from these harmful rays is crucial not only to prevent skin cancer but also to avoid premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots.

What is SPF and How Much Do You Need?

From tanning oils labelled SPF 15 to premium sunscreens labelled SPF 50, the term SPF is commonly mentioned. SPF stands for "sun protection factor," and it shields you from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburns and can contribute to skin cancer. Dermatologists agree that wearing sunscreen with adequate SPF is essential, not just for a day at the beach but for everyday protection if you spend time outdoors. So, how much SPF do you actually need?While marketing may suggest that higher SPF numbers are always better, the difference becomes minimal after a certain point. For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks approximately 97 percent of harmful UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks about 98 percent. Therefore, while higher numbers do offer more protection, the difference beyond SPF 30 is marginal. The key is to apply it generously and reapply regularly throughout the day.

Understanding UVB

The sun emits two types of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. UVB rays cause sunburn and are significantly involved in the development of certain skin cancers, including malignant melanoma. Sunscreen provides crucial protection against these rays.

Understanding UVA

The sun emits approximately 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays. Unfortunately, sunscreens are less effective against UVA rays. These rays are major contributors to photoaging, causing wrinkles and skin discolouration over time. They also play a role in the development of some types of skin cancer. By understanding the differences between UVA and UVB rays and the importance of SPF, you can better protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Types of Sunscreens

Chemical Sunscreens: These contain organic (carbon-based) compounds that create a chemical reaction, transforming UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Common ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. They tend to be thinner and spread more easily on the skin, making them ideal for daily use.

Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens: These contain active mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays away from the skin. They are often recommended for sensitive skin as they are less likely to cause irritation.

Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens: These protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.

What to Consider When Choosing an SPF

-SPF Rating: For daily use, an SPF of at least 30 is recommended, as it blocks 97% of UVB rays. For extended outdoor activities, a higher SPF may be beneficial.

-Broad-Spectrum Protection: Ensure the product offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

-Water Resistance: If you are swimming or sweating, a water-resistant sunscreen will offer better protection. However, no sunscreen is completely waterproof, so reapplication is necessary.

-Skin Type: Choose a sunscreen suited to your skin type. If you have oily skin, opt for a non-comedogenic product. For sensitive skin, look for sunscreens with soothing ingredients like aloe vera or chamomile.

-Formulation: Sunscreens come in various forms, including lotions, creams, gels, sprays, and sticks. Select one that fits your lifestyle and preference. For example, a stick might be convenient for on-the-go touch-ups.

How to Apply Sunscreen Correctly

Apply Generously: Most people do not use enough sunscreen. Apply at least one ounce (about a shot glass full) to cover your entire body.

Timing: Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside to allow it to absorb into the skin.

Reapplication: Reapply every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.

Don’t Forget Sensitive Areas: Ears, neck, lips, and the tops of your feet can often be overlooked but are equally important.

Sun protection is a fundamental aspect of skincare, and understanding SPFs is crucial in making informed choices that benefit your long-term health. By incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine, you significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer and keep your skin looking youthful and healthy. It’s important to remember that sunscreen is not just for sunny days – UV rays can damage your skin even on cloudy days, so make it a habit to apply sunscreen every day.

If you have any questions about which SPF product is right for you, or if you need advice tailored to your specific skin type - our team is here to help you navigate your skincare options and ensure you are well-protected.

In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we are offering a special 20% discount on all our SPF products using the code MAY20.

BE HEALTHIER. BE BETTER. BE YOU and enjoy the sunshine responsibly!