Sun Protection: Medical Grade vs Over-the-Counter Sunblock
Protecting the skin from destructive and harmful UV rays of the sun is essential for everyone regardless of age. Since exposure to sun radiation is cumulative, most damage will show itself later in life after years of unprotected exposure. Whether your concerns are prevention of aging skin, brown spots, or skin cancer, sun protection involves much more than a simple one-time application of sunscreen.
Radiation from the sun is classified as UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA and UVB are of greatest concern since our skin is exposed to these rays throughout the years; UVC is mostly filtered by the earth’s ozone with very little reaching the surface. UV rays are present year round with greater intensity in higher altitudes and near the equator, resulting in higher rates of skin damage and cancer in places like Denver and Australia. UVA has the ability to penetrate through clouds and windows deeply into the skin and is present regardless of weather conditions. These are the same rays emitted by tanning booths and responsible for melanomas. Many people refer to this ray as the “aging” ray since it breaks down our dermis layer of skin which is responsible for much of our skin volume and elasticity. UVB, or the burning ray, is more intense on sunny days and during the summer months; SPF refers to UVB blockade. Damage from both of these rays contributes to loose, sagging skin with rough texture, uneven skin tone and more visible red vessels. Ultimately, they can result in skin cancer, especially melanoma.
Protection from the sun’s rays is possible through many means—reduce exposure during times when the sun is most intense, wear protective clothing and glasses, be aware of reflective rays from water and/or sand, and use topical sun protection products. Sun protection products are available in many formulations, each with its pros and cons. It’s crucial that one finds a product to use on a daily basis during dry winter months and during humid summer months. If a product does not “feel good” on the skin, most likely it will not be used.
Products that block UVB are easily found over the counter and tout SPF as high as 100. SPF 30-35 will protect 98% of individuals and is adequate protection from UVB rays, however, consulting your skin care specialist for adequate UVA protection is crucial. From an aging standpoint, UVA blockage is most important and products that do this well are available through your plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Over-the-counter sunscreens that state ‘Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection’ may provide some UVA blockade. Remember, there is no such thing as a “safe tan”.
For more information on our sunscreen and our skin care line, visit www.northsideplasticsurgery.com.