Block the Sun

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.