Some of us may think getting a slight burn is a small price to pay for a golden brown tan, but don’t be fooled. Keeping our skin safe from even the lightest burn is serious business. That’s why there’s so much talk over what kind of sunscreen to use and whether tanning beds are safe. So, how do we keep our skin safe from the burn? Let’s talk about how to cover it and how to avoid potentially harmful situations.
SPF 15, 30, 70, etc… WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Calm down, we know…it’s confusing. SPF stand for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreen prevents some of the suns radiation from reaching our skin by taking the heat for us, so to speak, or by reflecting it away. The higher the SPF rating, the longer the amount of time it diverts the sun’s rays. If you burn easy and want to be outside for a long amount time, use a higher SPF. Remember, it does not increase the amount of the sun’s rays deflected, just the amount of time your skin is “protected”.
It’s also important to know what kind of radiation it’s diverting. When we talk about skin care, UVA and UVB are the two types of rays we need to worry about. While one has been more associated with aging and the other with sunburns, both have now been linked to skin cancer. What about “tanning” sunscreens? These sunscreens don’t stop UVA rays from reaching the skin. For safety, our best bet is to stay away from these guys and go with the good stuff.
The same can be said for tanning beds. Most beds put out UVA rays, the so-called “tanning rays”. Some emit up to 12-times the amount that the sun does. Not to scare anyone, but aside from pre-mature aging and skin cancer, UVA’s have also been linked to some eye disorders.
How about sunless tanning? The FDA has approved most sunless tanning lotions and sprays. BUT, make sure they are used as directed. The darkening ingredient in most, dihydroxyacetone, may not be good for us if it gets in our eyes, mouth, or if inhaled. It may not last as long, but it will help to avoid those pesky UV rays. Keep in mind though,, we still need to use sunscreen. That tan won’t prevent the sun from finding us.
As always, when in doubt talk to your doctor and stay safe in the sun!