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SPF: One of your skin’s new best friends

In keeping with the spring theme I decided to re-introduce our skin to sunscreen. Many products such as primers and foundations now have SPF (sun protection factor). This is really nothing new but you will be seeing a resurgence as the weather is getting warmer and exposure to the sun will be greatly increased. This will also serve to remind you of the importance of protecting your skin and why you should invest in these beauty products.

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UVB/UVA rays and your skin

You may see or hear the terms UVB or UVA rays when talking about sunscreen and protecting your skin. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the light spectrum that reaches earth from the sun. UVB rays cause the actual sunburn while UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, causing wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other light-induced effects of aging. UVA rays compound upon the cancer causing effects of UVB rays and increasingly are seen as a cause of skin cancer on their own.

SPF refers to the ability of a sunscreen to block the UVB/UVA rays. The SPF rating is used to measure the time it would take you to sunburn if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen versus the time it would take with sunscreen. For example, if you have a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 it means if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start to burn, using the SPF 15 sunscreen would prevent reddening 15 times longer, so roughly 5 hours.

After seeing that and knowing there are SPF 100 sunscreens out there you might assume that the higher number the better. In terms of blocking UV rays SPF 50 is at the top end, blocking out 98% of UVB rays. SPF 15 blocks 94% and SPF 30 blocks 97%. As you can see, the SPF increase is misleading. You would think that an SPF 30 is twice as effective as an SPF 15 but that is not how it works. The higher SPF sunscreens offer negligible extra benefits and tend to be cost prohibitive.

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Sunscreen and your skin

One major complaint about sunscreen is that it is usually thick, creamy and not ideal for those with oily/combination skin. Fortunately, there are lighter sunscreens for your face and now your body to help minimize clogged pores. Facial products such as primers and foundations now have SPF as well you don’t need to apply sunscreen to your face if you use these products. Use of these products will help minimize dark spots and skin discoloration on your face.

Application

To get the full benefit of the SPF it is recommended that you apply the sunscreen a half an hour before going out in the sun and use water resistant formulas. For maximum benefit you should apply 1 oz or about a shot glass, any less and you are not getting the advertised SPF. It is important to re-apply the same amount every two hours regardless of SPF. You should also re-apply immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating. Keep in mind damage can be done without seeing a burn.

If you found this helpful please share or leave a comment if you have suggestions or questions.

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