The Truth About Sunscreen

September 11, 2017

Here at True Citrus, we aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to summer! Although the warmer months are soon coming to an end there are still precautions you should take when going outside and enjoying the sun.

It may be tempting to squeeze in a few more sunbathing days before it cools down, however there are some facts you should know before lounging out one last time.

Some basic facts about the skin and UV radiation:
  1. Don’t anger your melanocytes.
    When skin turns darker it is because your melanocyte cells release a pigment called melanin to protect it from sun damage. Melanin alters the color of your skin in an effort to create a shield. However, these melanocytes are also responsible for a form of cancer with a similar name: melanoma. This cancer is caused by UV radiation damage to that specific type of cells.
  2. There are two ultraviolet radiation types that affect your skin differently: UVA and UVB rays.
    The skin’s thickest layer (the dermis) is damaged by exposure to UVA rays. The damage is shown through wrinkles and premature aging of the skin, tanning, and also reduced immune system function. UVB rays damage the upper surface of the skin, causing tanning but also burning. This is where the risk of skin cancer comes into play.

We’re sure that you have heard other details in the news about the importance of slathering on the sunscreen before heading out. Still not convinced? Here is some more information that may have you rethinking that tan:

A “base tan” doesn’t protect you from burning (or sun damage).
A tan is just your skin’s way of trying to protect your cells from UV radiation. When you get a sunburn it means that the damage is already done! Your cells are responding to injury by sending more blood to the capillary bed of your skin in order to make repairs. That is why sunburns are red and hot to the touch – your cells are doing damage control.

Apply before you leave, then again and again throughout the day.
Sunscreen should be applied before you even leave the house to allow for full absorption, not when you’ve already been outside in the sun. Also, if you aren’t reapplying after sweating or having contact with water then you’re at risk for more damage. So slather, have fun, repeat.

Natural sunscreen, all the way.
Many standard sunscreens can damage your skin more than the sun’s radiation. This is because of lax regulations and updates to the dangerous chemicals used in sunscreen products, so it’s a good idea to do some research first. Remember your skin is the largest organ of your body. Your cells will absorb any chemicals that come into contact with your skin, and that means they will enter your bloodstream and other organs. Be sure what you’re using doesn’t cause more damage than the sun itself.

The higher the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) the stronger the protection, right?
Well, not exactly. That SPF number is based upon the hope that you will use the product as manufacturers suggest, but in reality most people only use about half the recommended amount. Also, SPF only indicates protection from UVB rays not harmful UVA rays. Instead of focusing only on SPF choose a sunscreen that expresses protection for the full “broad-spectrum” of radiation.

Remember reflecting rays.
Different surfaces (such as water, snow, and sand) have reflective qualities that can amplify the intensity of UV exposure. When surrounded by these reflective surfaces it’s even more important to reapply throughout the day.

The bottom line is this: if you’re planning to head outside, put on a layer of sunscreen. You may not get that fashionable tan but you’ll be more healthy (and less wrinkly) in the long run!

Credit: Brain, Marshall. “How Sunburns and Sun Tans Work.” How Stuff Works.

Tags: wellness, holiday, skin care, summer, fall