Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunscreen Do's and Don'ts - Part 1

Sunscreen is one of the most affordable anti-aging tool. I have mentioned about the necessity of sunscreen in another article. Other than protecting us from premature aging, the long term benefits of sunscreen include reducing the risk of skin cancers and sun burns. But with so many choices on the shelves, how can we choose a sunscreen that is best for us ? Here is what to watch out for when picking a sunscreen.

Photo source : fooyoh
Wearing sunscreen only when we are going to the beach is not enough. Do make a habit of wearing sunscreen everyday.

Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen.

A broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays. Check the label for SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and PA (Protection Grade of UVA).

Photo source : wikipedia
Two photographs showing the effect of applying sunscreen in visible light and in UVA. The photograph on the right was taken using ultraviolet photography shortly after application of sunscreen to half of the face.

What does “SPF” means ?

SPF is an indicator of the amount of UVB radiation required to cause sunburn (for example, if a person normally gets sunburn in a hour without sunscreen, SPF 15 is supposed to allow the person to stay under the sun for 15 hours before getting sunburn). FDA is considering to limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels to "50 +" because there is insufficient evidence to show that SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection than sunscreens with SPF 50.

What does “PA” means ?

Asian brands, particularly Japanese brands, tend to use the PA system as a measure of UVA protection. There are four levels of protection - PA. PA+, PA++ and PA+++ . It is recommended to wear sunblock with at least PA++ protection.

Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 2 to 4 hours.

A high SPF number might sometimes mislead consumers to stay longer under the sun without reapplying sunscreen. While the SPF formula seems simple enough, it does not necessarily hold true as there are numerous other factors such as the variation of UV intensity throughout the day, contact with water and sweating that can decrease the overall effectiveness of sunscreen. If you are planning to go swimming or doing an activity that involves a lot of sweating, sunscreen needs to be reapplied more often.

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