Facts and Tips About Sun Safety
Sun Safety – Ahhh, the sun. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get from it, is there? A cold winter day can be bearable if the sun is shining bright. A down in the dumps feeling can be boosted by a few minutes in the sun. We people get depressed when the sun isn’t shining brightly in the sky. The sun is amazing, isn’t it?
We aim here is to give you the facts about sun safety because even though it is a beautiful orb of light that lifts our spirits and makes us happy, it can also be damaging. It can burn our skin, cause aging signs, sun spots, and even cancer. We want you to enjoy the sun, yet we want you to do it safely.
The Sun’s Rays
You might have heard the terms UVA and UVB before, but maybe you don’t know what the difference is.
But UVA and UVB rays are responsible for cancer, but the UVB rays are what gives you a sunburn, and the UVA rays are what ages your skin.
Most sunscreens now protect against both rays but look for a sunscreen that says “broadband protection” to guarantee it. Starting in 2012, sunscreens will be required to have new labels to make it easier for consumers. Learn more about the difference between UVA and UVB rays and when and where they are most present throughout the day.
Sunscreen is something that every household should have and use, no matter the amount of pigment your skin has. Sunscreen has changed so much from just a decade ago. No longer do you need to look greasy and feel slimy when you apply sunscreen.
There are two different types of active ingredients in sunscreen – physical and chemical. The chemical sunscreen ingredients literally soak up or absorb the damaging rays before they penetrate the layers of your skin. The physical ingredients act as a mirror, reflecting the rays off of your body.
Most people enjoy the feeling of chemical sunscreens over physical sunscreens, but they both have their pros and cons. Learn more about both choices and what you can expect from each. Then, when you go shopping for sunscreen, you’ll have a better idea of what your sunscreen will feel like on your body. (Find out if your sunscreen from last year is still good.)
Tan Skin is Beautiful; Why Would I Want to Avoid Tan Skin?
In some countries, people use umbrellas in the summer to avoid the sun because they think that the lightest skin possible is the most beautiful. In America, we call that pasty, and we’re led to believe that the tanner the skin, the more attractive the person. I wish we could stop those feelings, but we are thrown images of men and women who are ridiculously golden brown, and of course, sometimes we feel the desire to look as they do. (Not Pasty! Embrace your natural skin tone.)
But the reality is, tan skin is sun-damaged skin. A reader questioned my thoughts on the matter and sent me an email telling me that I was too conservative in my thoughts on sun safety. I published his email online and went on to share with him the facts as I knew them. (And other readers chimed in, too!)
I quoted Sharon Miller, a U.S: Food and Drug Administration Scientist – “A tan is the skin’s reaction to exposure to UV rays,” Miller says in a statement. “Recognizing exposure to the rays as an ‘insult,’ the skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage will lead to prematurely aged skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.”
Dermatologists use what is called the Fitzpatrick Classification System to categorize skin types on how likely they are to get skin cancer. See where you fall into the system.
But What About Vitamin D? I Need Vitamin D!
Yes, you do! And it is a reality that some of the northern states have a population of chronically Vitamin D deprived people during the colder months, but using the argument of needing Vitamin D as a reason not to wear sunscreen is just false. (How to get enough Vitamin D while protecting yourself from skin cancer.)
Did you maybe know that you can get all of the Vitamin D that your body needs from your diet or from a supplement? Your body only needs to be in the sun for 15 minutes to get the daily allotment of Vitamin D. Did you know that it can take up to 30 minutes for your sunscreen to be fully efficient at protecting your skin? That’s why it is recommended to apply 30 minutes before you go outdoors. If you are very concerned about getting enough Vitamin D and you feel it is necessary to get it from the sun, head outdoors right after you apply your sunscreen and by the time your sunscreen is effective you will have all of the Vitamin D you need.
What SPF Should I Use and How Often Do I Need to Reapply?
We suggest every 2 hours or less. We personally apply every 90 minutes without fail. There is a wide range of SPF levels from 2 to 100. The FDA recommends never use anything less than SPF 15, but we are a little more conservative and recommend nothing less than SPF 30. SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s rays. Once you hit that high, there is not much difference in the SPF levels. Using SPF 75 or 100 really isn’t necessary and can be more expensive. Sticking with an SPF 30 sunscreen is a good bet for sun safety. (Sunscreen reviews)
Is Tanning in a Tanning Booth Better than Tanning in the Sun?
We’d like to hope that after reading this article you feel less of a need to achieve tan skin and more of a need to protect your skin keeping it younger-looking and healthy. But if you still are considering tanning in a tanning salon, please reconsider. We condensed all of the dangers of tanning booths for you. If you are an indoor tanner, please read them.
Some states have made it illegal to use an indoor tanning booth by minors, even with parental consent. Also, a scary fact was released that stated that if you tan in a tanning booth before age 30, you have a 75% greater chance of skin cancer. They compared the dangers of tanning to the dangers of arsenic or mustard gas.
What if I Still Want to Have Tan Skin?
Fake it! Self-tanners have advanced so much in the past years. Find one that works with your skin type and go for the golden brown look you love. We recommend perfecting your tanning technique before summer hits. You can easily hide blotchy skin or the wrong color for your skin under jeans.
These self-tanning tips and reviews can help you get on your way to a healthy golden brown.
Can I Get a Tan if I Wear Sunscreen? – Striving for Sun Safety and a Tan
I really want to wear sunscreen to protect my skin, but summer is my favorite season, and I love how I look when I have a tan. The fake tans never look the same to me.
Good question! You’ll be happy to know that your skin can and will get a tan, even when using sunscreen. You just need to find an SPF level that works for your skin.
If you don’t burn easily, you can feel free to use a lower SPF level, but no lower than 20.
Reapply every 2 hours, no matter what. (Earlier if you’re swimming or sweating.) And definitely look for the words, “Broad Band” or UVA/UVB protection, which not only blocks the rays that burn, they’ll block the rays that cause cancer and aging signs.
Using sunscreen won’t leave your skin ghost-white, it will simply protect it and block the rays that are harmful to your skin.
Everyone enjoys the fact that summer gives your skin a healthy glow, and it does look nice, but who wants a sunburn, skin cancer, sun spots, or wrinkles?
Active Sunscreen Ingredients – Sunscreen Ingredients – Physical UV Blockers to Chemical UV Absorbers
When you look at your sunscreen ingredient list, do you find yourself wondering what exactly the active ingredients are and why they are used? Let’s break down the physical sunscreen ingredients from the chemical sunscreen ingredients, and see why they are typically 3 to 5 (or more!) active ingredients in your sunscreen.
Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients Absorb the Suns UV Rays
Some chemical sunscreen ingredients actually absorb the sun’s UV rays before they penetrate into your skin. Many people like using them because they don’t leave a white coating on their skin.
Most times they are used in combination with each other because they all have their strong points. Some, like Menthyl Anthranilate block only UVA rays.
Others, like Octisalate block only UVB rays. And some, like Oxtocrylene, are used simply to up the SPF rating.
Here is a short list of some of the many chemical UV blockers you might find on your sunscreen’s ingredient list.
- Menthyl Anthranilate
Chemical sunscreen ingredients are usually more aesthetically pleasing to consumers. They can be made into gels, sprays, and creams, and typically rub into the skin easily without a residue left behind.
But they’re not all without concern. Some chemical ingredients are recognized to cause hormonal disruption, nervous system concerns, and allergy triggers. In fact, they estimate that 97% of Americans have Oxybenzone in their blood, which, according to EWC.org is a high hazard ingredient.
Physical Sunscreens Physically Block or Repel the Sun’s UV Rays.
Physical sunscreen ingredients sit on your skin and repel the sun’s rays. They do not penetrate into your bloodstream as chemical sunscreen ingredients do.
The list of physical sunscreens is small.
- Titanium Dioxide
If you’ve ever put on a sunscreen that has turned your skin white, then you were probably using a product that contains either zinc or titanium dioxide or a combination of both. These sunscreen ingredients are usually deemed safe and an excellent choice for sensitive skin. In fact, Zinc is a mainstream ingredient in baby diaper rash creams, so you can see that it would be a safe choice.
Of course, they’re not as aesthetically pleasing as the chemical sunscreen ingredients, given the potential for white skin, but they are effective – and they don’t soak into your bloodstream. But they aren’t all created equal, and they will vary in the degree of whiteness. Different percentages of active ingredients along with combination ratios will show that one sunscreen with zinc will be very white and another, not so much.
Chemical and Physical Ingredients Mixed
Many times, skincare lines will mix chemical ingredients with physical ones. If you need to know more about the sunscreen ingredients in your favorite sunscreen, check out SkinDeep.org’s website where you can search for your exact sunscreen as well as each ingredient to see what the concerns might be.
Sunscreen Safety – When Should I Replace The Bottle?
Question: Sunscreen Safety – When Should I Replace The Bottle?
I still have plenty of sunscreens left from last summer. Is it safe to use or should I replace it?
When it comes to sunscreen safety, sunscreen really shouldn’t be used for longer than a year. So, if I were you, I’d buy a new bottle just to play it safe.
When you’re shopping for sunscreen, remember to look for “broad-spectrum coverage”.
What that means is it blocks against UVA and UVB rays to provide complete coverage. Blue Lizard sunscreen is a great option for you to buy (compare prices). Pick up at least an SPF 15 (more if you burn easily) and don’t forget to apply at least every 2 hours; more if you are in the water.
Pick up a couple of bottles to have on hand.
I always keep on at my house, one to grab when we head out, and even a small refillable bottle in my handbag. How many times do you make a detour to hang out with your friends in the sun? If you’re prepared, you’ll never have to experience the pain of a sunburn.
Protection against the sun is completely in your hands. One sunburn is all it takes to increase your chances of skin cancer, so make sure you play it safe before you have fun in the sun.
What to Do If You Get a Sunburn – How To Quickly Soothe Your Skin
Let’s begin with the obvious – no one wants to get a sunburn. But unfortunately, sunburns can happen so here are the steps you need to follow in order to stop skin damage once you have been burned. By quickly dealing with a sunburn you can prevent further harm to your skin both now and in the future.
Signs You Are Getting a Sunburn
When you start to feel that your skin is stinging, sensitive, or tender to touch while you are outside you are definitely getting a sunburn.
Of course, if your skin turns red, you are obviously getting a sunburn. Make sure to pay attention to how you feel because if your skin is not only red, but you also have a headache and feel dizzy you might actually have sun poisoning. If you have even one of the above symptoms, make sure to see a doctor or even consider going to the emergency of the nearest hospital.
What Exactly is a Sunburn?
In her book, Simple Skin Beauty dermatologist Ellen Marmur explains that when your skin gets sunburned, you are experiencing damage both on the inside and the outside of your skin. Your skin turns red as your blood vessels expand. By expanding the blood vessels in your skin is trying to repair the damage that has been caused by the sun. Additionally, a sunburn kills skin cells and continues to develop anywhere from twelve to twenty-four hours after the first harm has been done to the skin. Keep in mind that even one sunburn can lead to skin cancer further down the line.
What to Do Once You’ve Burned
- Though this might seem obvious – if you realize you have been burned to seek shade and rest. Simply stay out of the sun.
- Take a cool bath in order to slow down the burn process. Add colloidal oatmeal or aloe to your bathwater.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Place your moisturizer in the fridge in order to cool it. Look for a fragrance-free moisturizer like CeraVe or Lubriderm since fragrance can irritate sensitive skin. Keep up a regular moisturizing routine for about a week. You can’t stop your skin from peeling, but a moisturizer will help your skin both look and feel better while peeling.
- Since sunburn is an inflammatory response by the body to an injury to the skin consider taking aspirin (or two) or ibuprofen pill to help calm the inflammation.
- Apply pure aloe vera to the burn. Aloe has both anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties which will help smooth the burn. Aloe vera creams and gels may contain alcohol which is drying so look for a product that is 100% aloe or apply the aloe directly from the leaves of an aloe plant.
- Another anti-inflammatory ingredient that might soothe your burn: shea butter, black tea, olive oil, allantoin, and cucumber. You can also try hydrocortisone cream.
- Drink lots of water as your body loses fluids when your skin burns.
- Stay out of the sun for a few days after you get burned because once you’ve burned, you are at risk to burn again. If you must be in the sun wear sun-protective clothing and a hat and of course apply lots of sunscreens.
What NOT to Do After a Burn
- Avoid applying products to your skin with alcohol, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, calamine, or benzocaine to your burn.
- Don’t apply just plain water to the burn. Once the water evaporates, it actually makes your burn feel worse. If you want to apply cold cloths to your burn make sure they are soaked in aloe or have cream on them before applying to the burn.
- When your skin begins to peel do not pull on the peeling skin or use a body scrub on it for at least a week. Moisturize instead. If you have blisters – hands off! If you pick your blisters, you could cause scars.
21 Natural Sunburn Treatments
We all know the dangers of too much sun exposure and the possibility of getting burned, but sometimes we are fooled by overcast skies. Swimming underwater at the pool or beach can make you forget the power of ultraviolet rays. Believe it or not, there are still people of color who think darker skin provides enough protection from the sun. If you’re one of these people, be sure to read these articles.
- Sun Safety for Women of Color
- 4 Reasons Why Latinas Should Wear Sunscreen
- How Much Do You Know About Safety for Skin of Color?
- Is Your Sunscreen Really Protecting You?
- What You Should Look for in a Sunscreen
- How to Use Sunscreen When Wearing Makeup
To What Degree?
Before you treat that burn…
What kind of burn do you have?
A first-degree sunburn will cause redness and peeling and can be painful. The skin will heal within a few days. These burns can be treated with cool baths and natural substances like aloe vera gel or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams.
A second-degree burn is a blistering burn that could be a medical emergency. If you experience headaches, chills, or a fever, you should seek immediate medical help.
If you have suffered a sunburn, drink plenty of water to help with the skin’s healing process and try one of these home remedies.
Cool Off With a Cold Compress
1. Dissolve three tablespoons of baking soda in one quart of water and use as a cold compress.
2. Treat the burn with a compress of almond milk.
3. Saturate a cloth or cotton pad with cold milk and apply to burned areas.
4. Place four bags of sage tea in one cup of boiling water. Allow the tea (and tea bags) to cool in the refrigerator. Pat the mixture onto the skin with the cooled tea bags.
How to Plant Your Own Beauty Garden
Soothe the Burn
5. Splash apple cider vinegar on the burned area or pour the vinegar into a spray bottle and spray every 20 minutes.
6. Combine one cup of white vinegar, 1/3 cup of salt, 1/3-cup yogurt, two tablespoons aloe vera gel, and one capsule of vitamin E and blend together until creamy. Put the lotion into a pump bottle. Smooth over the skin every hour until you get relief.
7. Smooth the contents of a vitamin E capsule over the burn, four times a day.
8. Apply aloe vera gel onto the burned skin to speed up healing. You can also mix the aloe vera gel with vitamin E oil.
9. Mix enough baking soda with water to make into a paste and apply to sunburned skin.
10. Mix equal parts of baking soda and cornstarch with enough water to make a paste and cover burned parts. Leave it on for 1 hour and then rinse.
11. Apply plain yogurt over the burned areas. Let dry. Rinse off. Reapply until you feel relief.
12. Mix honey with wheat germ oil and apply to the skin.
13. Mix ¼ cup of honey with one to three drops of peppermint essential oil.
14. Soothing Sunburn Lotion: Combine two tablespoons water, one tablespoon witch hazel, ¼ cup baking soda, and one to two drops of peppermint oil and blend into a lotion and place inside a pump bottle. Shake well before using. Gently apply to sunburned skin.
Read this article about ancient Native Americans’ use of witch hazel and other plants to treat skin problems.
Soak Away the Sizzle
15. Pour about two cups of apple cider vinegar into the bathwater and soak.
16. Soak in two cups of milk. Mix in one tablespoon of almond oil.
17. Dissolve two cups of cornstarch in a bath for a soothing soak.
18. Toss a couple of chamomile and peppermint tea bags into bathwater (or hang the tea bags over the faucet as you begin filling the tub with hot water). After the tea bags have steeped a little, begin cooling off the water. (Water should be lukewarm – more on the cool side). Toss in some lemon slices and soak.
19. Pour one cup of oatmeal in cheesecloth or a muslin bag and let soak in the tub. Squeeze the bag and let the oatmeal liquid drizzle over the skin.
20. Place two ounces of dried rosemary in two cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and pour into a tub full of water.
21. Mix five drops each of peppermint, chamomile, and lavender essential oils with the juice of one fresh lemon. After filling a bath, pour in the mixture and swirl around inside the water.
- Bubble Bath Benefits and Recipes
- 12 Relaxation Tips to Destress Your Skin
- 5 Bath Recipes to Soothe Hangovers
Staying Safe in the Sun – FAQs About Sunscreen Use
As nearly everyone knows by now, there is no such thing as a safe tan. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily sunscreen use.
But what if your skin is oily and acne-prone? Do you know how to keep your skin safe from the sun’s rays without triggering acne breakouts?
Do I Really Need a Sunscreen?
Yes, you definitely do. Even if you don’t typically sunburn. Even if you aren’t laying out at the beach for hours.
Using sunscreen regularly is probably the single most important thing you can do for your skin. It will protect you from skin cancer and keep your skin looking young. Remember, you need to use it every day!
How Can I Choose the Right Sunscreen?
If you are prone to acne, you shy away from the idea of putting sunscreen on your skin. Who needs more oil and more breakouts?
But the right sunscreen is out there if you know how to find it. Make sure you’re using a non-comedogenic and oil-free brand. These types are less likely to cause breakouts. You may also like the moisturizer/sunscreen combos.
Does Sunscreen Really Protect Me?
There has been a lot of controversies recently regarding sunscreen. Some advocacy groups claim most products aren’t giving the protection they promise. Other groups allege some sunscreen ingredients are ineffective or even unsafe. It’s no wonder consumers are confused.
Most dermatologists agree sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin from the ravages of the sun. The trick is to use a sunscreen that gives you protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, understand the SPF rating system. The higher the SPF, the greater protection you receive.
If you’re worried about or sensitive to certain ingredients, ask your dermatologist for recommendations. Choosing your sunscreen wisely will ensure you are adequately protected. More here »
Doesn’t the Sun Heal Acne?
The sun’s rays may be slightly antimicrobial, but just laying out in the sun isn’t going to heal a case of acne.
What sun exposure can do is up to your risk of skin cancer, cause hyperpigmentation, and premature aging.
Instead of hoping a tan will clear up your skin, try a proven acne treatment. You’ll get far better results without the risks associated with sun exposure.
How Should I Use My Sunscreen?
First and foremost, apply it every single day and not just when you’re going to be spending hours outdoors. Sunscreen should go on all exposed areas of skin.
Make sure you’re using enough, too. You may be tempted to use just a small dab, especially if you’re skin is oily, or you’re worried about breakouts. But a tiny bit of product isn’t going to give you enough protection. Apply liberally, at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.
Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Sun Safety for Skin of Color?
Skin of Color & SPF
Question #1. Since I have dark skin and therefore a natural SPF of 13-15, I don’t need to wear sunscreen.
Answer to #1: Since I have dark skin and therefore a natural SPF of 13-15, I don’t need to wear sunscreen. False. Dark skin may not burn as quickly as fair skin, but those with a darker skin tone are still at risk for sun damage and cancer from excessive sun exposure.
Skin of Color & Vitamin D
Question #2. Higher levels of melanin in darker skin reduce the synthesis of vitamin D from the sun. People who are vitamin D deficient should increase their sun exposure.
Answer to #2: Higher levels of melanin in darker skin reduces the synthesis of vitamin D from the sun. People who are vitamin D deficient should increase their sun exposure. False. While higher levels of melanin provide some protection to the skin, it also reduces the body’s capability to make vitamin D from the sun. This does not mean that people of color should subject themselves to excessive sun, which can cause sun damage and skin cancer. Although some health experts suggest that 10-15 minutes of sunlight a day will provide you with enough vitamin D, it’s best to err on the side of caution. To be sure that you are getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor to give you a blood test. Your doctor can then determine how much vitamin D you need in supplement form and through a diet of vitamin D rich foods.
SPF & UV Protection
Question #3. SPF is a measure of how much UV protection you will get from a sun protection product.
Answer to #3: SPF is a measure of how much UV protection you will get from a sun protection product. False. The sun protection factor doesn’t tell you how much protection you will get, rather how long you can stay in the sun before getting burned.
Sunburn & Skin Cancer
Question #4. Getting sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
Answer to #4: Getting a sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. True.
The Sun & UV Rays
Question #5. The sun’s rays are most intense.
a) in the early morning hours
b) in the midday hours
c) in the late afternoon
Answer to #5: The sun’s rays are most intense b)between the hours of 10 AM – 4 PM.
Question #6. The safest way to get a tan is
a) on a cloudy day
b) on a tanning bed or in a tanning salon
c) by using self-tanner
Answer to #6: The safest way to get a tan is c). There is no safe way to get a tan through sun exposure. UV light from tanning beds and salons can also cause skin cancer and wrinkling, so the only safe way to get a tan is to use a self-tanner or give your face a warm glow with a bronzer.
Question #7. You don’t need to use sunscreen on cloudy days, in the shade or in the winter months.
Answer to #7: You don’t need to use sunscreen on cloudy days, in the shade, or during the winter months. False. UV rays can come through clouds. Water, snow, sand, and concrete reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Question #8. When should you reapply sunscreen?
a) Once you apply enough sunscreen, you’re protected for the entire day.
b) Reapply sunscreen after four hours.
c) Reapply sun screen every two hours, even on cloudy days and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Answer to question #8: When should you reapply sunscreen? c) Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Question #9. What should you look for in a sunscreen?
a) An SPF of 50 or higher
b) An SPF of at least 15 with broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays.
Answer to #9: What should you look for in a sunscreen? b) SPF is a measure only for UVB protection. Look for a product that says broad or multi-spectrum UVA/UVB and with ingredients like avobenzone (Parsol 1789), titanium oxide, zinc oxide, or Mexoryl SX.
Sun Protection Extras
Question #10. Which of the following items should you use in addition to sunscreen for protection from UV rays?
b) Dark, tightly woven clothing
c) A wide-brimmed, tightly woven hat
d) A white cotton t-shirt
Answer to #10: Which of the following items should you use in addition to sunscreen for protection from UV rays? a, b and c. Light-colored, lightweight, and loosely woven fibers, including white t-shirts, actually do not provide much protection from the sun. A long-sleeved denim shirt or tightly woven fabrics offer the best protection, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. To check to see if your clothing offers enough protection, hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, UV radiation can penetrate it and get to your skin.
How Much Did You Know?
If you got less than five correct answers, you need to do much more to protect yourself against skin damage and skin cancer. If you got five or more correct, you’re halfway there. Check over the areas that you missed and practice more sun safety methods. Were all ten correct? Congratulations. You’re protecting your beautiful skin of color. Keep it up!