I am counting days until my vacation, and there are only few more left. This has been an exhausting week, month, year… and I am really looking forward to release the stress and relax a bit (or a lot). However, there are still some important things I have to think about and take care of before leaving, and one of them is efficient sun protection for my skin.
Without the sun there would be no life on Earth, we all know that. It is no wonder that there are so many benefits of sun exposure. Sunlight is known to be responsible for dermal synthesis of vitamin D, boosting the level of serotonin (the ultimate hormone of happiness) , and regulating the level of melatonin (the hormone responsible for helping a person feel sleepy and go to sleep). Scientists claim that regular exposure to the sunlight can have beneficial influence on our health. According to them we should spend roughly 15 to 30 minutes in the sun each day. In that way we can enhance conversion of cholesterol into vitamin D. Vitamin D is believed to reduce cancer and multiple sclerosis risk, fights depression and boosts weight loss. Assuming that these facts are 100% true, there are so many good reasons to stay out in the sun.
However, If you are planning on staying outside for longer than only 15 or 30 minutes, it is wise to use some kind of protection for your skin, otherwise you might end up with a sunburn. And that’s anything but good for your skin (too much sunlight can cause earlier aging of the skin, or even skin cancer). Besides, sunburn doesn’t really look so good. And if I tell you that getting sunburn basically means that your DNA is damaged, you must admit that it also doesn’t sound so cool.
How to protect our skin?
You have few options to protect your skin; sunscreen, sunblock or combination of both.
Sunscreen normally contains compounds that absorb UV light from the sun (mostly UV B which is responsible for sunburn, while UV A is mainly responsible for earlier aging of the skin), it acts like a filter for most of the rays and screens them before they penetrate your skin. Sunscreen usually has to be applied 15 to 30 minutes before we expose our skin to the sun, because it takes some time for our skin to absorb it. Many sunscreens still use oxybenzone as active ingredient, although it is quite controversial compound. According to some research, it is believed to be a hormone disruptor, which means it can potentially interfere with hormone systems and cause tumors, birth defects and developmental disorders. It is also known that it can cause allergic reactions in some people. Similar concerns are also related to few others chemical compounds found in sunscreens, such as octocrylene, octinoxate and avobenzone. But before you decide not to use any product that might contain some of the mentioned chemicals, keep in mind that small amounts of them are likely not toxic. For example, oxybenzone is allowed in cosmetics up to 10% in European Union and Australia, and up to 6% in USA and Canada.
Sunblock contains nano particles as active ingredients, usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Those nano particles stay on the top of your skin, and protect you simply by reflecting harmful UV light. However, if a person inhales larger amount of such nano particles, it can be toxic. So we should be careful when applying sunblock, especially those in sprays. Do not inhale it!
Many products are a combination of both – sunscreen and sunblock. So, which kind of product you will choose is a matter of personal preference. Just keep in mind that all mentioned types of protection are safe if applied correctly and used properly. The worst choice you can make is exposing your skin to the sun without any protection, and that is definitely not safe.
And where is the part with saving money??
Here it comes. 🙂 I am sure you all know about SPF, Sun Protection Factor. There are products that contain SPF 15, 20, 30, even 50… It is basically telling us the degree of protection against sunlight that a certain product provides. For example, a product with SPF 15 will block 93% UV B rays, that cause sunburn. On the other side, product with SPF 30 will block slightly more – about 97%.
If we go even a little bit higher, up to SPF 50, it blocks about 98% of UV B rays. You will probably agree with me when I say that this is not significantly better than SPF 30. But it is usually significantly more expensive. And this is exactly the point when you should think about it for a moment, and maybe even save some money. If you have really fair skin, go for SPF 50, but I would say it makes no sense to use something with even higher factor, the difference is just not that big. I never use anything higher than SPF 30, and that is completely enough for me and my sensitive skin.
In the end…
Protect your skin when exposing it to the sunlight. And remember, any protection is better than no protection.
I wish you many sunny days and no sunburns. 🙂