By now, sun protection is ingrained in us – and that’s good! But despite all the warnings, ads and products aimed at education, myths and misconception abound – and that’s bad. When you consider that up to 80 percent of wrinkles are caused by UV exposure, and, according to the American Cancer Society, each year there are more new cases of Skin cancer that breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined, it makes sense to know the facts. Here is the truth about sun protection.
MYTH 1 : The Damage Is Already Done By The Time I’m 18
FACT: If you spent your teens soaking up the sun, by the time you’re 35 or 40 you may think, “It’s too late now, right?” Wrong. An FDA study found that only 23 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs by age 20, so it’s never too late to start protecting your skin. “Prevention is an ongoing process. “The body has repair mechanisms to fix some of the damage from an earlier stage,” says Wang. “But if you build up new exposure, it can lead to new damage, skin cancer and accelerated skin aging.” Also, our repair mechanisms diminish with age. “That’s why at later stages of life, prevention is really important,” she says.
MYTH 2 : Sunscreen Is Only Necessary Outdoors.
FACT: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of the sun’s effects come from incidental exposure, not long, languorous days at the beach. When driving, strolling or even sitting near a window, apply sunscreen or a moisturizer with full-spectrum protection. (UVA light will penetrate window glass). “It’s important to use sunscreen all year long,” says Karen Ray, director of Spa Solage in Calistoga, California. “Even on overcast days, you can get UV penetration.
MYTH 3 : My Lips Are Protected With Lipstick
FACT: Lip cancer is most common on the lower lip, where the sun hits directly, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it may not show up until your 50s or 60s. The titanium dioxide in matte lipsticks offers some protection, but you don’t know what percentage your lipstick contains, and whether you’re getting enough. Instead, look for lip balm with SPF protection and layer it under lipstick. Add a hat that shields the entire face, not just the upper half.
MYTH 4 : Sunglasses Protect The Skin Around My Eyes
FACT: “Sunglasses alone are not enough, says Stephen Cohen, O.D., and past president of the Arizona Optometric Association. “Depending on the size and shape of the frames, up to 50 percent of ambient UV can still reach the eyes, and the skin around the eyes.” The eyelids are one of the most common sites of melanoma, he adds, as skin around the eyes is thin; we don’t apply sunscreen there because it is sensitive or we’re afraid of getting it in our eyes. The solution? Select sunglass styles that offers protection, and wear them correctly – not flipped up your head! “Apply a light moisturizer with SPF 15 or 30 under the brows and under the eyes,” says Ray.
MYTH 5 : A Hair Product With SPF Will Keep My Color From Fading And My Hair From Turning To Straw.
FACT: Not so much.The best way to keep your color from fading in the sun is to wear a hat. To protect hair from extreme dryness, apply a conditioning oil or serum and give it extra love at home. Spa director Naomi Gregory, of Injidup Spa Retreat in sunny Western Australia, advises deep conditioning treatments with plant oils that hydrate, penetrate and protect the hair. She also suggests massaging products infused with jojoba, macadamia nut oil and rosemary into the scalp before you shampoo, to stimulate circulation and promote hair growth.
MYTH 6 : For SPF, The Higher The Number, The Better.
FACT: “I’m not a big fan of high SPA because of potential irritation,” says Wang. “It also gives people a false sense of security.” Here’s the scoop: The SPF number only tells you how much protection you get from UVB rays, not UVA rays. While an SPF 30 offers more protection than 15, it doesn’t double the benefits; SPA 15 blocks about 95 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent, and 30, it plateaus around 98.5 percent until you get to SPF 100, which blocks up to 99.2 percent. Typically, Wang recommends SPF 15 or 30; for activities like swimming or playing golf, use SPF 50.
MYTH 7 : A Little Sunscreen Goes A Long Day.
FACT: Most people only apply 20 to 50 percent of the recommended amount, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. If you use SPF 30 but don’t apply enough, you actually get the effects of an SPF 10. Start with a full ounce for an adult, half that for a child, and use it all, recommends the Skin Cancer Foundation. Reapply every two hours, after you get out of the water, or if you are sweating.
MYTH 8 : “Full-” Or “Broad-Specturm Protection” Means Total Coverage From UVA and UVB Rays.
FACT: You know how much protection you get from UVB rays from the SPF number, but there’s no SPF equivalent for UVA rays. Here’s a primer: UVB are the tanning, burning rays that stimulate melatonin production, cause painful sunburns and are at their strongest in the U.S from April to October, especially in the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But UVA rays with are present with equal intensity throughout the year, are the worse of the two, penetrating deep into the skin to blast collagen and elastin, and potentially lead to melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. UVA rays are also responsible for sagging skin, lines and wrinkles. The FDA currently doesn’t have regulations for UVA testing and labeling. Instead, they rely on sunscreen makers to test for UVA protection if they label their products with a broad-spectrum claim (which they don’t always do). While there is a new FDA sunscreen monograph in the works, of the 17 active ingredients approved by the FDA, the only ones that offers full spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection are zinc oxide, avobenzone (with octocrylene), mexoryl and titanium dioxide. (Oxybenzone is on the list, but also on the decline-it causes the most allergic reaction.)
MYTH 9 : With Sunscreen, I Won’t Get Enough Vitamin D
FACT: Does sunscreen prevent vitamin D absorption? It can be cause it blocks UV says Wang. “But in reality, most people don’t put enough sunscreen on to become vitamin D deficient, or if they do, they change their behavior: They feel protected and stay out longer, so they’ll actually get more UV exposure.” According to a 2010 study by the Institute of Medicine, 600 i.u. per day is the necessary daily dose, which you can find in most multiple vitamins. That’s the equivalent of 10 to 30 minutes max of sun exposure, depending on whom you talk to.
MYTH 10 : Sunscreen Lasts Forever
FACT: If you’re tempted to dig around in the trunk of your car and pull out last summer’s screen, don’t. Preservatives don’t work forever, and active ingredients break down. “The shelf life of sunscreen is one to two years, but that depends on how you store it,” says Wang. If you leave it in your car in the sun, the composition will separate, decompose and won’t work as effectively. Store sunscreen in a dark, cool place, shielded from sunlight. Most sunscreen come with expiration dates, which should be taken seriously.
How To Protect Your Eyes
Eye damage from UV exposure is cumulative. “Long-term exposure is a leading cause of cataracts, premature presbyopia, and can contribute to muscular degeneration,” says Cohen.
The best protection, Cohen advises, comes from wearing a hat with a brim using full-coverage sun-glasses and, for people who wear contacts lenses that block UV.
“All sunglasses are not created equal,” says Cohen, who adds three are three main factors to consider: style, UV blocking and optics (quality of the lenses). “Sunglasses should cover from the brow to the upper cheek, with a wrap design or thicker side to block UV coming in from the periphery”.
Manufactures must include how much UVA and UVB is blocked – look for the highest percentage. Darknessn of a lens controls brightness, but not visiblity, they don’t have an impact beyond that. Invest in a quality pair, says Cohen “Oftenn, cheaper sunglasses have better equality lenses.” Some contact lense have sun protection built in. For extra protection, look for Acuvue lenses,which block the highest levels of UV of any brand.