Skin Protection 101

It’s common knowledge that uncontrolled sun exposure puts you on the fast track to older-looking skin and the possibility of skin cancer. However, there’s a lot to keep straight as you try to keep yourself protected. Today, I’ll give a primer for those readers who understand the importance of skin protection, but who may not be clear on the terms and practical considerations necessary to ensure that their time in the sun is healthy and safe.

Skin protection glossary

Here are some of the key skin protection terms and definitions.

Understanding SPF

Choosing the right sunscreen starts with its SPF value. It’s important to note that SPF refers only to the way a sunscreen blocks UVB rays. For example, if your skin burns in 10 minutes without protection, a sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 extends that time to about 150 minutes.

However, higher SPF values add only a small amount of further protection. SPF15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF30 blocks out 97%. For most people, SPF15 is a good place to start, and a wide range of skincare products already include SPF values. If you have fair skin or a family history of skin cancer, SPF30 or higher may be your choice.

There’s no SPF rating equivalent for UVA rays. To ensure you’re using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, check the ingredient list for one or more of the following UVA blockers:

Once you’ve decided on the SPF value that’s most appropriate for you, look at other factors, such as water resistance, spray or lotion, and even scent until you find your ideal product.

Other skin protection basics

You don’t need sunscreen on parts of your body that are adequately protected with clothing. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts can help reduce sun exposure, though if these are made of light or sheer fabric, adding a skin lotion with an SPF factor can assure you won’t burn through your clothing. Wide-brimmed hats and glasses with UV filtration can add protection to your face and eyes, which are also susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays.

Avoid the sun during its peak radiating time, generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., or make use of shade from trees, umbrellas, or building overhangs. For an extra boost, be sure to stay hydrated. Start with the eight ounces of water, eight times a day as a guideline. You should be urinating about every two hours. Your skin stays moist and supple when your body has adequate water reserves, counteracting the drying effects of sun exposure.

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