The sun is necessary for life, but too much of it causes more harm than good. The Ultraviolet rays (UV rays) from the sun are known to cause adverse health effects; more than 1 million people all across the globe are diagnosed with skin cancer annually. Thankfully, most of the damage done by UV rays is preventable. This is where sunblocks and sunscreen products come into the picture. Let us study these in detail.
Are sunscreens and sunblocks effective against UV damage?
A broad spectrum of sun protection products can greatly protect us against sun damage. Hence, sunblocks and sunscreens should be made a part of everyone’s daily sun protection. When used properly, sunscreen products can protect the human skin from some of the UV damage. However, they might not protect against dangerous forms of skin cancer.
Understanding SPF sun protection factor
SPF or sun protection factor helps you rate your sunscreen product (lotions or creams).SPF measures the strength of the product through its ability to block out burning rays of the sun. Simply explained; a sunscreen product with SPF 15 can effectively block up to 93% of sun’s UVB rays whereas, sunscreens with SPF 30++can effectively block 97% of the sun’s harmful UVB rays.
What is the difference between sunblock and sunscreens?
Sunblocks literally block the sun by creating a barrier between the skin and the sun rays. Sunblocks usually contain Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide etc.
Sunscreens on the other hand absorb the harmful UV radiation and prevent them from being absorbed by the skin. They typically contain Parsol and benzophenones.
Do these products prevent tanning?
Sunscreen/sunblocks do not prevent tanning especially if you expose yourself to the sun during the peak hours of 11 am to 4pm. Also people who swim or perform water-sports must reapply the sunscreen/sunblock were they to get wet. It is also advisable reapplying it every 2 hours and at least 20 minutes prior to stepping outside.
How to choose a sunscreen/sunblock product?
The markets are flooded with sunscreen products containing SPF from 2 to 60. Most dermatologists recommend selecting a broad spectrum UVA/UVB product with at least SPF 30++, depending on the level of sun exposure, the area you are living in and the general health of your skin etc. People living in humid regions must be careful with the SPF, since some products having higher SPF could lead to acne formation.
People with lighter coloured skin, hair and eyes tend to burn more easily as compared to those with darker skin tones. The more your ability to burn in the sun, the greater the protection you would need. Men and women using certain drugs, cosmetics or those who have undergone Laser skin rejuvenation procedures must be especially careful while stepping out in the sun. This is because; their skin is even more sensitive and UV damage could be permanent.
One must also read the product label on the sunscreen/sunblock. Try and choose one that is resistant to water.
How to use sunscreen/sunblock to prevent UV damage?
- Wash your face and pat dry; it is best to use the product on clean and dry skin.
- Apply the sunscreen/block at least 20 minutes before stepping out.
- Use a generous amount on the face, arms, hands, neck and all exposed parts of the body.
- Your lips need sun protection too- so do use a lip balm with SPF 15.
- Use the sunblock and sunscreen even if you are indoors or on cloudy days since the UV rays are always at work.
Remember: using a sunscreen does not mean you are completely safe. Avoid going outdoors if the UV index is very high. Seek shade when possible and wear protective clothing in addition to using sunblocks and sunscreens.