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What Does SPF Really Mean? The Importance of Sun Care

What Does SPF Really Mean? The Importance of Sun Care

At Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa, many of Dr. Bachilo’s patients are curious as to why she recommends that all of her patients invest in a top-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF rating in order to ensure maximum sun protection.

The reason? Excessive exposure to the sun is one of the skin’s worst enemies!

Prolonged, direct exposure to the sun’s rays diminishes the skin’s natural moisture and hydration, reducing its ability to produce skin-repairing collagen and elastin, two vital nutrients essential to healthy and youthful-looking skin. In extreme cases, severe photodamage caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s light can lead to dangerous mutations in skin cells, resulting in various forms of skin cancer. In fact, the sun’s effects on human skin are so harmful, that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Read on to learn why protecting your skin from excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays is vitally important.

What is Photodamage and how does it lead to Skin Cancer?

Photodamage simply refers to skin that has been damaged by excessive exposure to the harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun’s light.

Photodamage generally occurs over time, through gradual and continual exposure to the sun. In some cases, you may experience an acute sunburn, in which the skin turns bright red, blisters, and peels. Each time this happens, it intensifies the gradual damage produced by ongoing sun exposure throughout the course of your life. This is why it is important to prevent both types of sun damage.

Photodamage causes premature aging of the skin, and produces symptoms such as freckles, age spots, skin laxity, creases, wrinkles, and fine lines. Extensive photodamage over time may also result in harmful mutations in skin cells that may require medical attention, such as pre-cancerous lesions, and even skin cancer.

What is a broad-spectrum sunscreen?

The FDA formula and label requirements define “broad-spectrum” sun protection as a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Dr. Bachilo recommends that you always look for the “broad-spectrum” designation on the produce label to ensure that it provides adequate sun protection.

What does SPF stand for?

The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating is used to measure how much protection from sunburn a sunscreen provides. Sunscreens are assigned an SPF rating depending on how well they block the sun’s UV rays. Sunscreens with higher SPF factors provide more protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, but here at Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa, we offer products with much higher SPF factors that can provide better protection for longer periods.

To determine how well a product protects you based on its SFP rating, remember that a product with an SPF of 30, for example, means that your skin will take 30 times longer to burn than it would if it were not protected. To ensure that your skin is protected, not only from sunburn, but from more subtle photodamage, remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. After swimming or showering, towel dry, and reapply.

How do I choose a good sunscreen?

Because the SPF rating measures protection against sunburn caused mainly by UVB rays, it is important to ensure that your sunscreen also protects against UVA rays. Sunscreen products that provide both UVA and UVB protection are usually categorized as “broad spectrum,” and you should look for this term on the label. Select a good quality broad spectrum sunscreen and wear it every day to protect your skin from photodamage.

SPF sunburn protection does not work incrementally in comparison to other products. For example, a product with SPF 30 does not provide twice the amount of protection as one with an SPF 15. What it means is that you can stay in the sun a bit longer. Products with an SPF rating over 50 are rare and actually offer very little additional protection, so don’t worry about trying to find a product with an SPF higher than 50.

You should note the product’s expiration date. If there is no expiration date on the label, you can safely assume that the product has a shelf life of no more than three 3 years, and less if the product has been exposed to high temperatures.

Many excellent broad-spectrum sunscreen products are available as daily moisturizers for face and body, Dr. Bachilo will be happy to recommend the best sun care products for your individual skin type.

How much sunscreen should I use?

Apply sunscreen generously whenever you plan to spend time outdoors, even while driving your car. If you’re planning to swim or sweat, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. Dr. Bachilo recommends opting for extra protection by using a product with SPF 30 or higher.

The American Academy of Dermatology advises one full ounce of sunscreen, roughly the amount that it would take to fill a shot glass, to cover the entire body, with particular attention to the face, neck, and ears, as well as the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet. If you are bald or have thinning hair, or if you wear your hair in braids that leave areas of your scalp exposed, you will need to protect your scalp as well with either a hat or sunscreen.

How often should I re-apply sunscreen?

Per the American Academy of Dermatology recommendations, it is most effective to apply sunscreen to clean, dry skin about 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Be sure to reapply after swimming or sweating. In fact, the Academy recommends reapplying sunscreen generously at least every two hours, no matter what the product’s SPF rating may be.

If you’d like to learn more about how to treat photodamage and protect your skin from the sun’s rays, schedule an appointment at Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa today. We will be happy to help you keep your skin looking youthful and fresh.

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