News | Published May 9, 2013 | Written by Camille Brown, licensed aesthetician

It can’t happen to me

Each year, millions of new cases of skin cancer are detected, yet some patients continue to avoid using sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) before sun exposure, thinking, “It can’t happen to me.”

This is clearly an area where behavior modification is necessary and skincare professionals must educate their patients on the importance of SPF.

SPF is an agent known to protect the skin from UV radiation. There are three formulations of SPF – chemical, physical and broad spectrum. All are effective in offering sun-shielding benefits but have different ways of protecting the skin:

  • Chemical SPF penetrates into the corneocytes, the cells on the outer skin layer, to absorb UV rays before they can affect the skin.
  • Physical SPF sits on the surface of the skin to reflect UV radiation before it induces damage.
  • Broad Spectrum SPF is a mixture of both chemical and physical SPF, offering both actions.

Regardless of the type of SPF you choose, make sure to apply sun protection at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours when outside in order to maximize sun protection. This is especially important when you are swimming or sweating, as excess moisture can break down the product and compromise the effectiveness of the protection.

In addition to understanding the different kinds of protection and how to apply it effectively, people need to understand what the numbers associated with SPF mean. The Food and Drug Administration regulates SPF labels and related claims. It’s important to know that the numbers are not proportionate, meaning that SPF 4 is not twice as effective as SPF 2. The reality is that SPF 2 will absorb 50 percent of UV rays, SPF 15 about 94 percent of UV rays and SPF 30 absorbs 97 percent. If you are planning to be outside more than 20 minutes you should apply a product with SPF 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours.

Remember to use a product with SPF all year as sun can damage your skin even on cloudy days and even in the winter. Consider it a staple of your skincare routine – it will help delay premature aging of the skin and lower the incidence of skin cancer.