SUNSCREENS: FACT vs. FICTION
There’s an obsession today with using the highest factor of sunscreen (SPF 60 for example) as the best way to protect skin. This is understandable. The high number promotes the idea of “better protection”. In actuality, the “factor” of a sunscreen merely refers to the length of time one will tolerate the sun before burning. It cannot tell us how well it will protect against skin cancer. In fact, it might add to the risk by encouraging us to stay in the sun longer.
Sunscreens either absorb or reflect the energy of damaging ultra-violet light. While UVB rays cause burning of the outer layer of skin, of greater concern are the UVA rays that go deeper into the skin. These rays damage DNA, and cause skin to age prematurely. Over many years, even mild exposure (no immediate awareness of burning) can cause damage, resulting in thin, wrinkled skin, blotchy pigmented spots, and a frail, rough surface. Such skin cannot easily resist injury or infection, and can develop skin cancer.
Skin cancer is caused by molecules known as “free radicals” which damage our DNA. This kind of damage is similar to what sea air does to our cars: Rust! Rust in a car is like cancer; if neglected, it does not stop. It is the same with skin. Therefore, we need “anti-rust” for our skin.
Anti-oxidant vitamins (“anti-rust”) in sunscreen neutralize free radicals before they do damage. Look for anti-oxidants in the sunscreens you buy. Photo-aging will also slow down, and damage caused by the sun will be minimized. All sunscreens need re-application if one spends a long time in the sun and definitely after swimming.
So, by all means, enjoy our lovely climate, but remember the rules:
BETWEEN 11 & 3, DUCK UNDER A TREE!
BE SUNWISE, ANTI-OXIDIZE!
RE-APPLY, RE-APPLY, RE-APPLY!
Dr. Setterfield’s topic in the next issue of The Cordovan will be rosacea.