If you couldn't tell from the sweltering heat and the relentless sunshine, summer is officially here in South Carolina.
And while we should all enjoy our time outdoors, we must do so responsibly. It's important to remember that even a little bit of time spent in direct sunlight, without proper protection, isn't just damaging to your skin. It could potentially put your life in jeopardy.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they reach age 70.
And, as if that wasn't unsettling enough, the likelihood of your developing melanoma (the diagnostic term for skin cancer) increases if you've had five or more sunburns during your lifetime.
All of this to say, you should really be vigilant with your sunscreen usage, even in the winter months when it seems like sunburns and too much UV exposure aren't really a concern.
Let's take a quick look at the sunscreen basics so you're well-equipped to protect yourself.
Chemical Absorbers vs. Physical Blockers
Generally speaking, there are two types of sunscreens available: physical blockers and chemical absorbers.
Physical blockers, which are often encouraged by dermatologists and other medical professionals, form an active, physical barrier between your skin and the sun, reflecting its UV rays away.
Made from ground minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, physical blockers should be thought of as a mirror separating your skin from the sun. Because they're naturally derived, they do not often cause allergic reactions in wearers.
The downside, though, is this sunscreen's consistency: it is a pasty white color, and it does not blend as easily into the skin the same way that chemical absorbers do.
Chemical absorbers are artificially-created substances that react to UV radiation. Rather than simply deflecting this energy, these absorbers undergo a chemical reaction to keep the UV radiation from damaging your skin.
As opposed to physical blockers, chemical absorbers can cause allergic reactions and other, milder forms of skin irritation in their wearers, since they are made from artificial substances. But they can blend in seamlessly with your skin.
When searching for (and when wearing) a sunscreen, there are a few basic principles to keep in mind so you can stay safe. They include:
- SPF range - Always aim for an SPF of 30 or higher, as these tend to be more effective
- Water resistance - If you're by the water, it's important to get a sunscreen that won't wash off after a single application
- Follow the 2-hour rule - One application of sunscreen isn't enough, especially if you're active and in the sun for hours on end; reapply every two hours
- Give the bottle a good shake before use - Important ingredients within your sunscreen aren't always uniformly distributed; give the bottle a good shake to make sure they're well distributed
What Happens if You Don't Use Sunscreen?
Of course, there's an increased risk for melanoma and other skin cancers, as we mentioned above.
But if those long-term risks aren't enough to make you get serious about sunscreen, then consider the short-term effects, which can be aesthetically unpleasant and even downright painful:
- Discolorations (freckles, sunspots, etc.)
- Painful, peeling sunburns
- Diminished elasticity of skin, combined with color changes (colloquially referred to as "leatheriness")
Remember, the sun is at its most powerful between 10 AM and 2 PM.
Even if you're just taking a quick walk around the neighborhood during peak hours, it's important to protect yourself by wearing sunscreen. Every minute of exposure matters.
Need new sunscreen for your medicine cabinet at home? Visit Hawthorne and talk through your options with our knowledgeable team of experts. We're ready to help you get the UV protect you need.