Incidents of skin cancer have been on the rise over the past three decades, and many of those cases could have been prevented had the victim taken one very simple step: applying some sunscreen.
Sunscreen is a pharmaceutical product intended to safeguard the skin against exposure to dangerous solar radiation. To that end, sunscreen employs a combination of ingredients to both absorb and reflect UV rays. This is important because exposure to even low levels of UV rays can begins to break down proteins in the skin and cause wrinkles. In time, prolonged unprotected exposure to UV rays can even lead to skin cancer.
Sunscreens use a physical blocker (substances such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to shield skin from damage caused by radiation. This radiation includes Ultraviolet A (causes premature aging) and Ultraviolet B (causes sunburn). The best sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and contain at least 6% physical blocking agent.
Worn on a consistent basis, sunscreen can help diminish the effect of UV rays on skin DNA. It protects important epidermal proteins like collagen, keratin, and elastin, keeping the skin smooth and firm. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, blocking agents in many sunscreens, have been show to slow and even reverse signs of aging. Sunscreen use also reduces risk of skin cancer.
The long-term risks of not using sunscreen and exposing unprotected skin to solar radiation aren’t pretty: skin damage, skin cancer, immune suppression, and cataracts. Protect your skin, and your health, by taking the following steps:
- Avoid unprotected exposure to UV rays, especially during the peak hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Wear clothes that offer protection from the sun, like long-sleeve shirts, hats with 3-inch brims, and sunglasses.
- Apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF 15 – 20 minutes before exposure and reapply every two hours.