Why Use Broad Spectrum Sunscreen?
Summer is here! And while protecting yourself from sun damage is really a year-round concern, it is most important in this season of swimming, hiking, and outdoor sports, when ultraviolet light is at its peak.
Damage to your skin comes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Whether you’re outside in the sun, skiing on a snowy hill, walking on a cloudy day, or even inside your car, UV radiation will still affect your skin. There are three wavelengths of UV light produced by the sun:
- UVC – The highest energy UVC rays are totally absorbed by the ozone layer, so they don’t even make it to your skin.
- UVB – Most UVB radiation is filtered out by heavy cloud cover and UVB rays only penetrate the top layer of your skin, the epidermis. But these are the rays that cause sunburn and they do damage cells’ DNA. Because most skin cancers begin in the epidermis, UVB radiation is also the main cause of skin malignancies.
- UVA – Low energy UVA rays penetrate farther into the skin layers, reaching the base of the epidermis and the deeper dermis. This is the radiation that causes skin aging and wrinkles. Although it was once thought that UVA radiation only made skin age, researchers now know that UVA rays affect epidermal cells called keratinocytes and can lead to cancer. Almost all of the UVA radiation passes through clouds and UVA rays can even pass through glass. That’s why you can still get skin damage while driving your car!
“It is essential to find a good sunscreen and make it a part of your daily routine in order to make it “sunburn free” through a Louisiana summer. In my practice, patients who wear sunscreen regularly have fewer skin cancers and younger looking skin,” says Dr. Chad Prather, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in south Louisiana.
What does this mean for your sunscreen? To be fully protected from both UVA and UVB radiation, use a sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum“. While a sunscreen’s SPF rating applies to its ability to block UVB rays, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires broad-spectrum sunscreens to protect against both UVB and UVA. Only products that have passed the FDA’s Broad Spectrum test can be labeled “broad spectrum”.
Protecting Yourself. To keep your skin healthy, focus on skin safety:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 at least 15 minutes before going outside.
- Use a generous amount on all skin that will be exposed, including your neck, ears, and feet.
- Reapply the sunscreen every two hours, and more often when swimming or sweating.
- Wear sun-protective clothing such as pants, shirts, hats, and sunglasses. There are many websites specializing in cool and comfortable sun-protective wear.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. Snow and concrete reflect light as much as water and sand do. And UVA radiation will be around even on cloudy days.
Protecting yourself from sun damage keeps your skin looking young and healthy. At Sanova Dermatology, our dermatologists can answer any questions you have about your skin and skin care. Contact us for information on how you can protect and take care of your skin!