How Sunscreen(s) Provide Sun Protection and Prevent Skin

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Currently, the most adequate sun defense is the use of sunscreens, according to sun-care and health experts, although the public behaviors reverse the order, i.e. avoiding extreme sun exposure, dressing in protective cloths, and using sunscreens. How can an appropriate sunscreen protect you against sun damage and skin cancer? Today I’m going to show you in a Q & A format.

First, why should you be concerned about sun damage and use sunscreens? 
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a known carcinogen (i.e. cancer-causing agent). Sun UV radiation remains an important risk factor for skin cancer, the most common cancer in US due to excessive exposure to the sun.
Sun’s UV rays may initiate skin damage as quickly as 15 minutes. UVB is mainly responsible for sunburn, while UVA penetrates deep into the skin to cause premature aging and skin cancer. Most sunscreens contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. Therefore, a right sunscreen is a valuable tool for a preventative measure against harmful effects of UV radiation.

What should you expect from a safe and effective sunscreen?
Sunscreens are not created equal, just like anything else. So, choose a sunscreen wisely, and make sure that it meets 5 key criteria.

  1. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher: the number rates the effectiveness of UVB blocking. When used correctly, a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 would prevent sunburn 15 times longer than your natural protection, and SPF 30 provides 30 times your protection. But the number doesn’t go linear.
  2. UVA filtering ingredients: At present, there is no indicator to measure UVA blocking. So, look for the term “broad-spectrum” (indicating block of both UVA and UVB), or ingredients such as Parsol 1789 (or avobenzone), which filters out UVA spectrum. Other components for broad-spectrum protection can be zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  3. Vitamin C & vitamin D: These antioxidants help you fight cell- and DNA-damaging free radicals.
  4. Water-resistant formula: It allows 1-1.5 hours of uninterrupted activity in water without having to re-apply, because no sunscreen is absolutely water-proof.
  5. Dermatologist tested for allergy and safety.

Who should use it?
Everyone is susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer does not differentiate color of the skin. Particularly vulnerable are:
-          Young kids: Sun damage can be accumulative over years.
-          People with fair skin and freckles or those who get sunburn easily: They face a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
-          Men and less-informed individuals: They are less aware or ready for sun-care. Remember: men and women are exposed to the same sun, hence the same UV rays.
-          Outdoor workers: Enough scientific evidence revealed that they have an increased risk of developing skin cancer due to occupational UV radiation exposure, but this substantial risk factor is often overlooked.

When to use?
Definitely apply it when you go outdoors in the summer even on slightly cloudy days. However, it’s recommended to use it year round. Remember to re-apply after 2 hours, esp. after swimming and sweat.

Where to apply?
The body areas that get exposed to the sun: face, neck, arms, legs, and the back even if help is needed.

Look for a safe and effective sunscreen? Choose  “SunRight BodyBlock SPF 30