The sun’s rays can uplift you after cloudy or stormy days. They also help your body create vitamin D, which promotes bone strength. However, not everything about ultraviolet (UV) rays is positive.
Excess UV exposure is linked with a range of health concerns, including skin cancer. The good news is you’re not alone in this fight. Using sunscreen can help you protect your skin and keep it healthy.
Ali Hendi, MD, and his dedicated team of professionals in Chevy Chase, Maryland, are skin experts. They provide skin cancer surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment, and they can help you keep your skin as healthy as possible.
In this blog, Dr. Hendi explores how UV rays can impact your skin and how using a quality sunscreen can help keep it safe.
How UV rays affect your skin
Also known as UV radiation, UV rays affect your skin in a range of ways, whether you get them from the sun or tanning beds.
The three types of UV rays include:
- UVA rays, which fuel the aging process of skin cells and seem to play a role in some skin cancers
- UVB rays, which damage DNA and cause sunburns and most skin cancers
- UVC rays, which are the most intense, but they don’t reach the ground, so they aren’t a cancer risk factor
In summary, both UVA and UVB rays can lead to premature skin aging, sun spots (age spots), deep wrinkles, burns, and all types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, which is the most serious form of skin cancer.
How sunscreen can help
Sunscreen may look like body lotion, but it does a lot more than moisturize your skin. The main ingredients in sunscreen keep UV rays from entering and affecting your skin. This, in turn, can help reduce your risk of developing sunburn, discoloration, wrinkles, and cancer.
The active ingredients either absorb the UV radiation or reflect it away. And while sunscreen can’t protect you from all of the sun’s radiation, it goes a long way. Daily use of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher can lower your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40% and your risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
Sunscreen habits to embrace
If you’d like to protect your skin from UV-related risks, apply sunscreen to any skin that’ll be exposed to the sun.
If you’ll be outdoors for moderate amounts of time, many experts recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. The SPF number indicates how long the radiation would take to redden your skin when used as directed. So, an SPF rating of 30 would mean that it would take 30 times longer for your skin to burn than it would take if you wore no sunscreen at all. If you’ll only be outdoors briefly, such as to your car and back, an SPF of 15 should be fine.
Other smart sunscreen habits include:
- Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors
- Reapplying sunscreen after two hours of sun exposure
- Using one full ounce (the size of a shot glass) over your body when you’re scantily clad
If you have especially sensitive skin or react to chemicals in sunscreen, consider using sunblock instead. Whereas sunscreen has chemicals that penetrate the skin, a sunblock sits on top of the skin to form a physical barrier. Sunblocks may not rub in as well, which may leave a white or chalky residue, but they’re tolerated by all skin types and work faster than sunscreen.
If you aren’t sure how long you’ll be out in the sun, keep other forms of sun protection handy. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, for example. Or, seek shade from an umbrella, tree, or awning when you’re outdoors.
To learn more about UV protection or to discuss issues regarding skin cancer, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, today.