Why is Sunscreen Important?
I think I can say with absolutely certainty that you all know you’re supposed to wear SPF Sunscreen. I mean, unless you’ve literally been walking around with your head in a paper bag and your ears covered for the last few decades, you’ll have seen and heard this message loud and clear!
But do you know WHY Sunscreen is important? If you don’t already slather on your high factor SPF now, I think you might do after this!
What is sun damage?
Do you love having a golden tan? A healthy glow? Or do you believe that freckles are a sign of beauty? Are you of a generation where sunscreen wasn’t really used when you were younger, or worse – baby oil was the key to the best tan ever?
Do you know what your golden tan and freckles really are? They are signs of sun damage. They are signs that your skin is desperately trying to protect itself from the harmful rays of the sun. Getting burnt just once every two years triples your risk of Melanoma skin cancer.
It’s important that you understand sunscreen and what to look for when you’re choosing one that’s right for you and your family.
UVA and UVB Rays: UVA are the ageing rays. They are the harmful rays that penetrate your skin at the deepest and thickest part of your skin. This is what causes your wrinkles, as it damages the elastin in your skin. UVB rays are responsible for burning your skin and have a strong link to malignant Melanoma and basal cell carcinoma skin cancers.
UVA Star Rating: This indicates the percentage of the harmful rays that are absorbed by the sunscreen. An SPF of 30 and a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars is considered a good stanard of protection. Personally I use a factor 50 on my face and a factor 30 on my body.
SPF refers to the sun protection factor. Factor 30 is considered a good standard. Please be aware that you do not get 30 x protection every time you apply it, this refers to your total sun exposure. So consider your SPF factor carefully. I know that I will burn (my skin turns pink) within 10 minutes of sun exposure. An SPF 30 will provide 30 x 10 minutes of protection, before I am at risk of burning. That isn’t long at all really is it!
Water resistant: Be careful here! Water resistant sunscreen can retain it’s protection for up to 2 x 20 minute moderate activity in the water. If you towel dry then be aware that you are rubbing your sun screen off! My advice, reapply after you’ve been in the water.
Expiration date: Check the bottle to see how long it will remain effective. If you’re using very old sunscreen then it will likely be less effective at protecting you against UVA and UVB rays.
So we’ve covered the basics. Lets have a look at how sunscreen is your anti- ageing best friend and crucially, how important it is to protect you against skin cancer.
Why SPF Sunscreen is the best Anti Ageing products
Do you know that the sun is capable of causing 95% damage to the skin. That is staggering isn’t it!
When you develop a tan (and freckles) your skin produces melanin to absorb the rays from the sun. This is a barrier / defence function and something that your skin is doing in order to protect it and you.
Failing to protect your skin with a broad spectrum SPF can lead to sun damage, which in turn can lead to pigmentation and skin cancer. Believe me when I tell you that skin cancer is very unpleasant and frightening. It is also very danagerous, but more on that later.
In terms of how the skin ages your skin, it can result in the following:
- Dehydrated skin with deep wrinkles.
- Pigmentation: you may see areas of dark pigmentation appear, particularly on the face and chest.
- Moles or suspicious looking marks may appear on your body.
How SPF Sunscreen protects against Melanoma and Skin Cancers
This video is difficult video to watch, but I strongly recommend that you do. It reduced me to tears when I watched it on my MelanomaMe skin cancer training, it’s so powerful and a startling reminder about the importance of protecting your skin from the sun.
This isn’t a video I have created, it’s from the Mary Greeley Medical Centre and it features real melanoma patients whom have been brave in sharing their stories.
I have attended a lot of training for skin cancer in the last few years, with the MelanomaMe training being the most insightful and informative training yet. We watched this video on my training course – it’s so powerful.
It’s a difficult watch isnt’ it. However, it’s very important that we all understand the importance of protecting our skin and the consequences of not doing so.
Understanding Melanoma Skin Cancer
You can protect your skin against the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers by using a broad spectrum SPF sunscreen. I personally recommend (and use) a factor 50 on my face an a minimum factor 30 on my body. For me, a suntan is not worth the risk of skin cancer, having seen someone close to me go through it more than once.
Look for the 5 star UV ratings too. Apply your sunscreen around 20 minutes before you go into the sun for the first time and then regularly throughout the day. I tend to reapply every 2-3 hours and always if I have been in the water. I even have sunscreen on when I am walking around and it’s not terribly warm. The UV rays are present all the time, so SPF sunscreen is important even in those winter months. Did you know that UV rays can even bounce off snow and affect you!
Early detection of melanoma is critical. The earlier it is caught then the better the long term prognosis.
Melanoma isn’t always obvious, so stay alert and check your body regularly for any new lesions (no matter how small) or any changes to moles or lesions on your body. Melanoma isn’t related to existing moles only – in fact over 40% are not on moles at all.
Use the alphabet guide opposite to check. Make sure you check your palms and soles of your feet too and get someone else to check the areas you can’t see.
If you discover something you are concerned about, then please see your GP or a Dermatologist.
I really hope that you have found this blog post helpful. I spend a lot of time with cancer patients and skin cancer is something that is close to my heart.
Please look after your skin and apply a good SPF daily. You will reduce your risk of exposure to skin cancer, but also you will have beautiful, youthful looking skin well into your mature years. Please get in touch if you have any skin related questions and would like some advice.