When winter’s chill starts to fade and spring starts rolling into summer, people are eager to get outside and enjoy the weather. Going outside can be a great way to relax, get necessary vitamin D, and exercise, but it’s extremely important to stay safe in the heat of the sun.
UV radiation emitted from the sun’s rays is a leading cause of skin cancer, and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. And is on the rise. To help keep yourself safe when you’re relaxing at the lake or going for a walk outside, it’s important to be aware of the different kinds sunscreen available and to know which is best.
Sunscreen lotions, sprays, or other topical products are used to absorb or reflect some of the sun’s UV rays and protect against sunburn and, consequently, eventually developing skin cancer. Sunscreens come in a variety of SPF’s, or sun protection factors.
SPF is a measure of how much UV radiation is required to create sunburn on skin covered with a protective lotion when compared to the amount of UV radiation required to create sunburn on unprotected skin. In simpler terms, SPF measures how much radiation you can be exposed to before you get sunburned with a certain lotion on. This is related to the amount of time spent in the sun and the intensity of solar energy.
In certain parts of the world, where the ozone layer is thin or depleted, UV intensity is much higher than it would be elsewhere. Cloud cover, shade, and seasonal changes also affect UV intensity. So does time of day. For example going outside at midday will expose you to more intense solar radiation than going on in the evening or morning.
SPF is affected by a number of factors also, including skin tone (lighter skin is more vulnerable to the sun’s rays), the amount of protective agent applied, and whether one will be engaging in activates where the sunscreen may be removed (swimming, for example).
Ultimately, determing the amount of UV radiation you’ll be exposed to, as well as how protected you are by a certain SPF, is inexact. That’s why it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. Always choose a higher value SPF over a lower one. Constantly reapply sunscreen if you think it’s been absorbed by your skin or washed off, and do your best to stay shaded during times in which you will be exposed to a lot of solar radiation.