Sunburn and SPF, UPF, UVA and UVB

Protect Your Skin from a Sunburn

Wear hat and sunglassesDid you ever hear people say: ” I can’t tan, I have to burn first ?”  Well, I have seen plenty of lobsters out there, and you really don’t need to look like one, to tan.

A friend of mine, a red head, notorious for sunburns, goes on a cruise once a year. She usually burns, and figured, why even bother with sunscreen? I explained the whole SPF thing to her, and she decided to try it. On her next cruise, she slapped on the sunscreen, tried to stay out of the sun during peak sunburn hours (10 am – 4pm) and got a nice surprise!  For the first time, she did not get a sunburn and she had a nice little tan ! She did, however, burn her lips, she did not think to put a lipstick or lip balm with a sunscreen in it, on. So it is possible to tan without getting burnt, even for red heads.

Of course, having a tan means you have sun damage, unfortunately.

Sunscreens  are products combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. Two types of ultraviolet radiation,UVA and UVB, damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer wave UV ray that causes lasting skin damage, skin aging, and can cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburns, skin damage, and can cause skin cancer.

We all need to put on sunscreen every day.Infants need to be kept out of direct sunlight until they are 6 months old. Keep them in the shade and cover up their skin. After that, they may be able to use sunscreen (check with your pediatrician). They should always wear a sunhat when they are outside.

For women it’s easier, since a lot of day creams and make up have sunscreen in it already. I guess there are even after shave lotions now, that have sunscreen in them.That’s only good enough for every day use though, if you are going to be outdoors for longer periods of time, you need to cover your whole body with sunscreen! Use about a shot glass full of lotion at a time. You need to reapply every 2 hours, especially after swimming and toweling off, or sweating a great deal.

In Hawaii, I have observed a lot of (mostly Japanese) women, who are covered from head to toe and also carry an umbrella with them, they don’t want to take any chances. That is, of course, the best protection, clothing ! Not all clothing is created equal though.UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation is absorbed. A fabric with a rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. This means the fabric will reduce your skin’s UV radiation exposure significantly, because only 2 percent of the UV rays will get through.  The easiest way to test if a fabric can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it – and your skin.The color of the fabric also plays a role. Darker-colored fabrics are more effective than lighter at blocking out the sun. For instance, the UPF of a green cotton T-shirt is 10 versus 7 for white cotton, and a thicker fabric such as velvet in black, blue or dark green has an approximate UPF of 50.

Always wear a hat, and of course sunglasses !!

SPF means sun protection factor.Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB. SPF  is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours.

SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light-sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference, and as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays. Sunscreen, regardless of strength, needs to be reapplied every 2 hours.  “Reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised. Don’t think that you are OK on a cloudy day,up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. This misperception often leads to the most serious sunburns, because people spend all day outdoors with no protection from the sun. You can also get the UV rays in the winter, snow reflects the rays, just like water does, and makes them even more potent.So don’t forget sunblock in the winter.

That’s why it is so important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen,offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays.


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