Don’t let a sunburn ruin your staycation! Skip the painful experience (not to mention the long-term risks) by choosing the right sun protection and using it correctly. Despite the confusing mish mash of 3-letter acronyms on the array of bottles filling the sun care aisle, picking the right sunscreen for your needs is easier than you might think. We’re going to break it down for you, so you can stop wasting time reading so many labels and get back to swimming!
UVA vs UVB
In reference to the sun’s rays, UV stands for ultraviolet. UVA are the long wave light spectrum rays that reach us from the sun, while UVB are the short wave light rays. UVB causes sunburn while UVA reaches deeper into skin and at first appearance only causes a tan. Until the last couple of decades, all sunscreen only protected against UVB rays (and many types of sunscreen still only guard against UVB rays) because we didn’t know we needed to be concerned with anything except sunburn-causing UVB. Scientists now know that UVA rays, while they don’t cause immediate visible damage, can cause wrinkles and premature aging, and can damage the skin’s DNA cells, leading to cancer. Which is why many sunscreens now incorporate protection for both UVA and UVB rays, commonly labeled “broad spectrum”.
For full protection against the sun’s damage, you’ll want to choose sunscreen that says it protects against both UVA and UVB rays on the label, or specifies that it offers broad spectrum protection. In addition, for swimming, go for a waterproof or “water resistant” choice.
We’re all familiar with those common SPF numbers on our sunscreen labels, but have you wondered what that means exactly? SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and the number correlates to how many more minutes you can be in the sun without your skin reddening than if you had no protection. So, if you generally started to burn after 15 minutes in the sun, SPF 15, would extend that by another 15 minutes. SPF 50 would extend that timeframe by an extra 50 minutes. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity.
Are you guilty of applying a quick layer of sunscreen after you go outside, just before you jump into the pool? We’ve probably all done that at one point, but that won’t give your skin the protection you need. Instead, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going into the sun. Then, reapply every two hours at minimum, or after swimming or sweating excessively. Don’t forget all of your skin; ears, hairline, lips, and hands are commonly missed spots. Plus, you did know you should apply sunscreen to your entire body before putting on your swimming suit, right? That’s right, the sun’s radiation penetrates clothing, and most material doesn’t offer enough protection.
Exposed skin isn’t the only part that needs protection from the sun! Protect your eyes with UV blocking sunglasses, and wear a heat when possible. We recommend choosing UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) swimsuits and clothing as well. Regular fabrics offer a tiny amount of sun protection, but if you go for a UPF suit, you can get sun protection of 50+, which completely voids the need to wear sunscreen under your suit or clothes.
When you follow these guidelines, you can go out into the sunshine and enjoy your pool with full confidence you’re taking all the right steps to protect your skin!
Now, that you now how to protect yourself and you’re almost certainly planning to spend the entire summer by the pool, how about a new lounge chair so you can read a book in complete comfort when you take a break from the water? Got questions, please contact us and we’re glad to help!