The sun is an integral part of an outdoor adventure, be it sunset or sunrise or even the warmth as it rises and touches you. One has to be careful and respect it for what it can do. It can have a harsh and damaging effect, I wish I had learned this as a youngster and avoided those “suntanning” sessions at the coast.
We all know what a wrinkled prune looks like, yet we often ignore this part of outdoor care! Sunscreen, seems simple you slather it on to prevent getting burnt. But with the multitude of products on the shelves, some guidance is necessary. At a glance, there is so much variety, and it can get complicated. Over time you will find the sunscreen that feels good, is waterproof and does not make your face look like a bad makeup base. Let us take a look at the various facets that make up sunscreen!
- SPF denotes the “Sun Protection Factor”. This indicates how long you can be in the sun covered by sunscreen as opposed to being unprotected and liable to sunburn. The protection level increases as the SPF number rises. But this can be confusing, an SPF 50 gives more cover than SPF 15. Yet the sunscreen does not stay on your skin for longer than around two hours, so regular replenishment is necessary. Simply an SPF of 15 will protect you from about 93% of the suns UV rays, moving to SPF 30 gets you around 97% protection and SPF 50 comes in at 98% with SPF giving almost 100%. Dermatologists suggest kicking off with SPF 30 as a bare minimum. Lastly, look for the term “broad spectrum” as that gives coverage from the key types of UV rays.
- UV Rays refers to Ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic radiation from the sun, in other words, emission of energy. We get three types A, B and C, however, C rays are reflected by the ozone layer so A and B are the rays that concern us. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause damage to the skin and even lead to skin cancer.UVA rays can penetrate deep into the skin and can cause ageing as it is below the surface where your skin develops its firmness and elasticity. One tans as a result of exposure to UVA as it triggers the production of melanin which darkens the skin.UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and stay on the skin surface. They cause sunburn, sunspots and can lead to skin cancer. They are thus felt to be the more harmful version.
- Then we need to look at the “makeup” of sunscreen. Generally, this will be a chemical or mineral, yet some combine both. If easily absorbed into the skin it will be chemical-based, however, if it leaves a matte residue on the skin it will be mineral-based. A chemical-based sunscreen protects by absorbing and neutralising the UV rays. The chemicals can be absorbed into the skin and the bloodstream and can even damage coral reefs. Side effects to humans have not made them a concern yet. A typical mineral sunscreen will sit on the surface of the skin and bounce the UV rays off. Zinc Oxide is a common ingredient used in production. A quality mineral-based sunscreen will leave minimal evidence of its application whilst a cheaper version will display a chalky residue.
The application should take place roughly half an hour before exposure to the sun to enable it to do its job. It is estimated that most people apply less sunscreen than is necessary and do not get the required protection. So do not be frugal, cover up when you are exposing yourself to the sun. Use sunscreen liberally and re-apply every two hours or after swimming and towelling yourself dry.
And do not forget to apply sunscreen in winter or on cloudy days, UV rays can penetrate clouds and still reach your skin. In the snow, they can bounce up off the snow and still do damage.
A hat may be good protection for your face but a liberal application of sunscreen is still the best defence, it stops ageing and the risk of skin cancer as well as long term damage.
You should apply a moisturiser with an SPF factor daily. Even if you are not going to be exposed to the sun, it provides protection. For example, when driving your windscreen does not block exposure to UV rays and your face and arms may be at risk.
Stay safe, it’s worth it!