We all know the importance of sunscreen. It’s a staple in vacation bags, suitcases and beach totes for decades. Nobody leaves for a beach vacation, camp or a summertime bike ride without slathering or spraying on their preferred SPF. Healthcare professionals and scientists alike have been telling us for years how important it is to wear sunscreen, and we’ve listened.
But there’s one common misconception that people make when it comes to sunscreen, and it’s a serious one. Not enough people realize that they should wear sunscreen year round. Further, that they should wear it every single day. Regardless of whether you’re heading out to a sunny outdoor locale or just popping out for some groceries.
Why is sunscreen important?
Why is it important to use sunscreen? There are a number of reasons, but the main one is for your health.
We think we can just apply sunscreen when we’re out in the sun for prolonged periods and be fine, but that’s just not true. While that definitely helps protect against the harsher summer sun and harmful UVB rays, wearing sunscreen all the time is the only way to protect against lesser UVA rays and sun that can still damage our skin year-round.
UVB and UVA rays act differently, and we don’t always understand when our skin is being damaged or harmed by the latter. UVB rays, harshe and easier to feel, are the rays that give us sunburn. You know that feeling when you’re in the lake or lying on the sand your skin starts to feel a little tight, warm to the touch, and you know you’ve had enough sun? Then, later, the tell-tale red, tight and painful feeling skin emerges and you know you’ve got a sunburn. Those are thanks to UVB rays. UVA rays, however, are much harder to detect. These don’t always result in a sunburn and you don’t always feel their effects right away. They can reach you in winter, in overcast weather, and you’ll neve know they’re doing any damage. However, overexposure to UVA rays can cause premature wrinkles, sun spots, weathered skin, and worst of all, skin cancer. They are every bit as detrimental as UVB rays – more so, in fact, because you can’t detect them.
UV rays can even penetrate through glass. So even if you’re not actually heading out into the sunshine, just driving for long periods in sunny weather or sitting by a sunny office window can allow UV rays to damage your skin.
The only thing that protects you against harmful UVA and UVB rays is to wear sunscreen daily, year-round. This layer of protection will ensure that these harmful rays don’t negatively impact your skin.
Many people, especially young people, often scoff at the need for daily sunscreen. But the numbers are sobering: 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. It is an affliction that knows no age, and can be fatal when not detected early. And many people don’t recognize the signs to look for, thinking they just have an annoying mole or lesion on their skin. And skin cancer is only caused by one thing: exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Sunblock creates a shield that UVA and UVB rays cannot penetrate; it absorbs and scatters the harmful rays so they cannot reach your skin, protecting your epidermis from harm. It acts similarly to our own ozone layer, which blocks harmful ultraviolet light.
What Type of Sunblock to Use?
While most people don’t mind wearing sunblock at the beach or the pool, they dislike wearing it year-round as part of a daily routine. Some of these reasons include disliking the feel or fragrance of heavy sunscreen, finding it inconvenient or time consuming to apply, or worrying about the costs involved. Luckily, there are plenty of sunscreen products on the market to avoid these inconveniences and make it easier and more cost-effective to add sunblock to your daily routine.
Many women’s cosmetics, such as BB creams, foundations, moisturizers and even chapsticks/lip gloss now contain sunscreen. You can find them in a wide variety of colors and varieties, and SPF options. Applying sunscreen to the face is one of the most important parts of your sun care ritual – many skin care diagnoses are on the face, and premature aging and wrinkles due to sun damage are more visible on your visage – and cosmetic companies have thankfully made it much easier for you, by including it right in your makeup. Some companies have devoted entire cosmetic lines to suncare, with special lip balms and moisturizers specifically designed to block out harmful UV rays, reduce sun damage and give you a younger, fresher look. You’ll save money when you buy products that already contain sunscreen, and you’re saving time because you’re already applying it when you put on your makeup.
Many brands are also recognizing the need for sun care lines for men. After shave balms, moisturizers and more are emerging on the market that contain SPF and make it easy for a guy to use sunscreen as part of his morning ritual. Many men ignore the need for sun care, and they shouldn’t. It is every bit as important for them as it is for women.
Sun aftercare is important, too. Once you’ve got a sunburn, it’s hard to undo the damage that has been caused deep within the skin. But you can help promote healing and ease your discomfort by using a sun aftercare product that contains soothing aloe and other ingredients to calm the skin and alleviate pain. Drinking lots of water and using a fragrance and chemical-free moisturizer is also a good idea (and not just when you’re sunburned).
Even when you’re wearing sunscreen, if you’re spending long periods in the sun, say at the beach, on the lake or outdoors doing yard work, be mindful of how much sun exposure you’re getting. Other good measures to take against sun damage include wearing a large brimmed hat, sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, clothes that protect your neck and other sensitive areas, and apply sunscreen liberally everywhere that the sun touches. Even your hands and the tops of your feet. If you feel that your skin is getting too much sun, go inside or seek shade. And remember, you can still experience sun damage even in overcast weather, even if it’s cold outside, and even if you’re in the water. Replenish your sunscreen every time you dry off!
There are plenty of sunscreen types out there, so no matter what your preference or SPF need, you can find a product that’s right for you. Whether you prefer lotions, sprays or roll ons, a high SPF or lower one (professionals recommend at least an SPF 50 for safety), need something that is all natural and fragrance-free for sensitive skin, or prefer something that’s a little fancier and high-end, you can find it. Some folks even try to make their own, but the results on these vary widely and we’d recommend buying one with SPF protection. Just make sure you read the labels and make sure any sunblock product you use has enough SPF to protect you and that you use it as directed.
With so many different products and brands on the market, there’s no reason at all not to wear sunscreen every single day. Protect your precious skin from UVA and UVB rays, keep yourself looking younger and reduce the risk of dangerous skin cancer. Just a little sunscreen every day makes all the difference.