Sunscreen 101: Get the facts on protecting your skin

A person walks down a beach on a sunny day with their hands out enjoying the weather.

There’s something that feels so good about getting outside and soaking up some sun—not to mention the vitamin D boost you can get.

This is especially true near the beginning of summer, when it feels like you’ve emerged from a long hibernation.

You’re finally ready to head out on walks, hop on a bike, or just find your own sandy stretch of beach for a little R&R. But before you do, don’t forget to brush up on Sunscreen 101. It can literally save your skin.

All skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful rays. It doesn’t matter if your skin tone is light, dark, or in between. But not all sunscreen products are created equal and their labels can be confusing.

Let’s go through some of the basics so you can pick the best products for you.

UVA vs UVB: What’s the difference?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the natural energy produced by the sun. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation is also a major risk factor for sun-damaged skin.

What’s the difference between the rays and the damage they can do to your skin? Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are known as the burning rays. They penetrate and can damage the top layers of your skin. Too much exposure causes sunburn and even blistering.

But the intensity of UVB rays fluctuates during the day. You need more protection from them when the sun’s rays are the strongest, typically from late morning to mid-afternoon in most climates. These rays can also damage your skin year-round because they can reflect off surfaces like ice and snow.

Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are known as the aging rays. They are more prevalent and absorb deeper into your skin, causing the pigment there to darken. These rays can pass through windows in your home or vehicle and are present even on cloudy days. It’s also the type of UV radiation associated with tanning beds.

An array of items are laid out for the beach including sandals, sunglasses and Artistry Ideal Radiance UV Protect SPF 50+

What is broad spectrum protection?

Broad spectrum protection means it protects against UVA and UVB rays. If the label doesn’t indicate broad spectrum, then it only protects against UVB rays.

When selecting a sunscreen to apply all over your body – from the tops of your ears to the tips of your toes – pick a broad spectrum formula.

What does SPF stand for?

All sunscreens have an SPF, or sun protection factor. In general, this number tells you how long it would take the sun’s UV rays to make your skin red when you are using the sunscreen, compared to how long it would take to redden your skin if you were not wearing it.

For example, if you rub sunscreen with an SPF 30 into your skin, it would take about 30 times longer for your skin to burn than if you were not wearing any protection. But the intensity of the sun exposure matters. People can burn more quickly at different times of day. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using sunscreen with SPF 30 as a minimum.

Is there really any difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50?

Once your SPF numbers get to 30 and above, there is a bit of a difference between them, but not a lot.

An SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays from the sun, an SPF 30 blocks 97 percent and an SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. Nothing blocks 100% of the sun’s harmful rays, but every little bit helps—even the 1 percent difference between 30 and 50.

Also important: Using a higher number does not mean you can stay in the sun longer. No matter what SPF level you’re using, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours when you’re outside and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating.

A person applies sunscreen while looking in a bathroom mirror.

What type of sunscreen should I use for my face?

“Scientists look to protect skin from any pigmentation,” said Jesse Leverett, an innovation and science fellow for the Artistry™ beauty brand. “That ‘tan’ is actually a visible indication of deeper damage being done.”

Jesse recommends a minimum SPF 50 for your face, such as Artistry Ideal Radiance™ UV Protect SPF 50+, which provides UVA/UVB protection. It includes protective antioxidants and ingredients to even your skin tone and treat dark spots and discolorations.

“Not all skin responds the same to sun – but all skin needs sunscreen,” Jesse said.

Does sunscreen expire?

If you’re spending a lot of time outside and using as much sunscreen as you should, you likely won’t have to think about this question. But we’ve all found that forgotten bottle somewhere and wondered: Is it still good?

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires all sunscreens to have a printed expiration date unless it’s been proven to remain effective for at least 3 years. If there’s no printed date and you know it’s older than three years, throw it out.

After those deadlines, there is no guarantee the sunscreens are providing any protection.

Looking for other skin care information or other healthy living tips? Read more blogs on Amway Connections. And to learn more about Artistry skincare products, visit Amway.com.

 

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