Feeling the burn isn’t always a good thing. In fact, protecting skin from harmful UV rays and preventing the lobster red coloration has become a priority for many individuals. So, why is that perfect tan so desirable?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many teens and young adults believe that a tan represents “good health” and boosts their self-esteem. Unfortunately, the type of exposure that produces these results can actually lead to various health issues including skin cancer and premature skin aging.
William W. Huang, MD, MPH, department of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, answers common tanning-related questions and offers tips to keep you safe and healthy all year long.
Are some UV rays OK?
There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA is able to penetrate deeper into the skin due to its longer wavelengths and contributes to premature skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer.
UVB is the primary cause of skin reddening and sunburns that contribute to skin cancer risk.
UVC never reaches the earth’s surface in any significant amount.
When should sunscreen be applied?
Sunscreens should be applied at least 15 minutes prior to the exposure to sunlight. It should be reapplied every two hours and more frequently if you’re sweating or in the water.
Sunscreens should be broad-spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB.
If an individual has a ‘base tan’, are they less likely to get burnt?
A tan results from ultraviolet light injury to the DNA of skin cells. The skin darkens in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Over time multiple mutations accumulate due to this damage and melanoma, commonly known as skin cancer, develops.
Although a “base tan” would allow a person to potentially spend more time in the sun prior to developing a sunburn, DNA damage is still occurring.
Does SPF 30 sunscreen provide twice as much protection as SPF 15?
SPF is an imperfect measure as it does not measure UVA protection and should not be confused with the amount of protection one gets out of their sunscreen. An SPF of 15 screens about 93% of the sun’s UVB rays. An SPF of 30 screens about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.
Is it OK to use sunscreen from last year?
Most sunscreens are designed to remain stable and maintain their protective strength for three years after being manufactured. Checking the expiration date is the most reliable way to know if your sunscreen is still appropriate to use.
Also, if sunscreen is being used appropriately and routinely, a bottle should not last a year.
Can lotion or makeup be worn with sunscreen?
Yes. Many facial moisturizers and makeup items contain sunscreen within their products also.
Does “water proof’ sunscreen need to be reapplied?
This is a common misconception. The FDA has actually gotten rid of “waterproof” and “sweatproof” labeling as this is misleading to consumers. New regulations require manufacturers to specify how long a person can use the product while being in the water before it loses its protection and needs to be reapplied.
Do lips need sunscreen too?
The lips are also susceptible to UV damage. Using a nice lip protectant that has a sunscreen can help prevent the development of skin cancer on the lips. Sunglasses, a large wide brimmed hat, and other photo-protective clothing are other measures to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.