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Sunscreen – How Does It Protect Your Skin?

By Janet Thompson – 

As the weather gets warmer, I like to remind my clients (especially my sun worshipers) about the dangerous effects the sun can have on the skin, and why using sunscreen is so important. As an Esthetician, I’m beginning to see a lot more damage, and an increase in skin cancer.

Sunscreen should be applied any time you plan on being outside for more than 15 minutes. On a cloudy day, approximately 80% of the sun’s rays still penetrate the clouds and can damage your skin. We just don’t feel it if it’s not beating on our faces and making us sweat.

Sunscreens are products that contain several ingredients to help prevent ultraviolet radiation (UV) from penetrating the skin. There are two different types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB. Both will prematurely age the skin and increase your risk of getting skin cancer.

UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays penetrate the skin at a deeper level and cause wrinkling and premature aging. Here’s how I remember them…

UVB = Burn (“b” is for “burn” or “blister”)

UVA = Aging (“a” is for “aging” and “awful wrinkles”)

There are two different types of sunscreens… chemical and physical. It’s important to know the difference so you can choose the right protection for you and your family.

Chemical sunscreens work by interacting with the skin’s top layer to absorb UV rays and convert them into energy before they can harm skin. They tend to use a combination of ingredients to protect against the full spectrum of UV rays.

Physical sunscreens sit on top of your skin to reflect UV rays and include ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide only protects against UVB rays while zinc oxide provides protection from UVA and UVB rays. Remember that cute lifeguard with the white nose? The only downfall to zinc oxide is that it tends to leave a white cast on the skin. Most products with an SPF of 50 or more contain larger amounts of zinc oxide, which make them more difficult to spread (like baby sunscreen). It’s a small price to pay to protect your skin.

So, which one’s right for you? If you have sensitive skin, or you are applying sunscreen on children, physical sunscreens tend to be less irritating and last the longest — especially when you’re involved in water activities. If you play sports and sweat a lot, a chemical sunscreen might your best bet. It’s not as sticky, and they’re much easier to apply. Many come in spray form.

My personal choice? Physical sunscreen because of its reflective properties. I would rather reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. I have never gotten sunburned while using a physical sunscreen, and I’m fair skinned.

Whether you use a chemical or physical sunscreen, your application habits are most important. Apply sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going outdoors, to make sure the product has time to absorb. Then, reapply based on the manufacturer’s directions.

The best ways to protect your skin are to stay in the shade, or wear a hat. I recently purchased a fashionable woven hat with a large round brim at a local discount store for $5. I like these for gardening and sporting events since the larger brim shades the back of my neck and my entire face. It actually keeps me cooler even on those scorching hot days.

Enjoy the beautiful weather . . . and be smart about protecting your skin! If you don’t take care of your skin, where else are you going to live?

Janet Thompson is a licensed Esthetician, and owner of Spa La Vie, Organic Skin Spa, located in Wasco, IL. 630-485-2788. SpaLaVie.info. Janet loves helping people achieve their skin care goals — the natural way.




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