Sunscreen – Essential for a Reason

If you were like me as a kid, you never put sunscreen on.  I didn’t sit out to tan often and I never used baby oil when I did, but I rarely put on sunscreen.  My approach was to get that first burn of the season, let that peel and then just keep getting exposed so I was tan.  Well I’m paying for it now.  I’m being treated for skin cancer (thankfully I’m responding well and currently have no cancer).  I refuse to sit inside worried about it though so now I absolutely use sunscreen, every day.  Even in winter.   

I’m going to share some information I’ve learned about sunscreen since my diagnosis.   

Sunscreen fact #1: Make sure you are getting a broad spectrum sunscreen.  It should provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.  Both kinds of rays cause damage to the skin with UVB being the worse of the two.   

Sunscreen Fact #2: Get sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.  Sunscreen with SPF 30 blocks about 97% of the sun’s rays.  Above SPF 30 the amount more blocked is small.  For example, SPF 50 blocks 98%.  So as long as you are buying something at 30, you are getting really good protection.  

Sunscreen Fact #3: No sunscreen is waterproof or sweat proof.  Sunscreens are either water resistant or very water resistant.  Water resistant sunscreen lasts for about 40 minutes in the water.  Very water resistant lasts for about 80 minutes in the water.  It is recommended to reapply sunscreen about every two hours, after getting out of the water or after sweating.   

Sunscreen Fact #4: Sunscreen isn’t your only defense against the sun.  When I am hiking in the summer I use a large hat to shade my face and neck.  I also use a long sleeve shirt called a rash guard when I am kayaking.  These can also be used to swim in. 

Sunscreen Fact #5: Sunscreen expires.  It is important to check the expiration date on the container of sunscreen.  Any expired sunscreen should be replaced because it may not be effective any more.  Even if the sunscreen hasn’t expired, if it has changed color or consistency, you should replace it.   

Sunscreen Fact #8: Spray on sunscreens are handy but they may not be as effective.  Any time you use spray on sunscreen, you should spray a good amount on and then rub it all over your skin so you know all your skin is covered.

Sunscreen Fact #9: You need to use a lot of sunscreen to protect yourself properly.  The guideline I’ve been given is a marble sized amount for your face and neck.  You should be using about a shot glass amount for your whole body if it’s exposed.  And as mentioned before, make sure you are reapplying it thorough out the day. 

Sunscreen Fact #10: The sun’s rays do not discriminate.  People of color do have more natural protection because of the melanin in their skin but they are still susceptible to getting sun burned or getting skin cancer.  People of color are also more likely to get diagnosed with skin cancer in the later stages.  It is as important for people of color to use sun protection as fair skinned people.   

I hope you use these facts to help you stay safe when outdoors.  I know I plan on being outside as much as possible, but I will be wearing sunscreen from now on.  

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