Spring is here to stay. And with it, walks in the park, getting together on terraces, exercising outdoors… the bravest even dare to visit a coastal destination on their days off.
So sunscreens – both facial and body – should be an essential whenever we are expecting prolonged sun exposure, although they should be used ALL year round since, believe it or not, the sun is also harmful in winter and on cloudy days.
While it is true that we are still not entirely familiar with sunscreens, recent years have seen greater awareness for avoiding sunburn, skin cancer, sunspots and premature aging, among other adverse effects.
But do you know what Sun Protection Factor actually means and how to use it properly?
UV rays and sunscreens
UV rays, also known as Ultraviolet Rays, are divided into different types:
- UVC rays are considered to be the most harmful, although luckily the ozone layer blocks them almost completely.
- On the other hand, we have UVB rays, which cross the atmosphere and affect the upper layers of the skin. They are capable of damaging cells, causing sunburn and even skin cancer.
- The best known are UVA rays, capable of penetrating deep into the skin and closely linked with the effects of photoaging and loss of the skin’s elasticity.
So what does SPF mean and what is its role in the face of UV rays?
We could say that sunscreens are the bodyguards of our skin, since they prevent a good deal of UV rays from affecting us. This is why we should use them whenever parts of our body are going to be exposed to the sun and choose sunscreens that specify they are ‘broad spectrum’, which means they block both UVB and UVA rays.
Although sunscreens don’t work the same on some people as on others, since the skin type is also an important factor in this matter. There are people who burn after 2 minutes in the sun and others who do so after 30 minutes.
The choice of SPF is also important. We can find sunscreens from SPF 2 to SPF +50 or ‘total sunblock’ on the market. Bearing in mind that an SPF 15 blocks around 90% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 99%, we can get an idea of what kind of product to choose so as not to suffer damage to our skin.
But sometimes it is not a matter of choosing a higher or lower SPF, but about applying the product properly and repeatedly in the case of prolonged exposure to the sun.
Therefore, if you are interested in all-round sun protection, we recommend the following:
- Apply sunscreen around 30 minutes before exposure to the sun for the skin to absorb it properly and to arrive ready.
- Apply sunscreen evenly on areas requiring it every 30-45 minutes.
- Reapply after 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun after swimming, drying with a towel or after sweating, since this removes a lot of the sunscreen.
We need to bear in mind that the skin is the most exposed organ in our body, all the more reason to take care of it and protect it as much as we can.