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What You Need to Know About Sun Protection

You should apply 1 ounce, about a palmful, of sunscreen to your entire body with attention to often forgotten areas such as ears, neck, feet, and areas of thinning or balding on your head.  © istockphoto.com/Izvorinka Jankovic You should apply 1 ounce, about a palmful, of sunscreen to your entire body with attention to often forgotten areas such as ears, neck, feet, and areas of thinning or balding on your head. © istockphoto.com/Izvorinka Jankovic

By Lauren Brown
Provided by WorldNow

Skin cancer has become one of the leading killers in the United States, but it also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.  In order to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun you should use a variety of methods including but not limited to sunscreen, sunglasses, and protective clothing.

UV and SPF Mean What?

When you hear about protecting yourself from the sun, what people are really talking about is protecting yourself against the ultraviolet radiation (UV), which is electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun.  

The three main forms of UV are:  UVA, UVB, and UVC.  All UVC rays, as well as some UVB rays, are absorbed back into the ozone layer. 

Sunscreens come with an SPF number or Sun Protection Factor, which signifies the amount of protection you will get from the UVB rays of the sun.  An SPF factor of 15 means that for each 15 minutes that you are in the sun you will be exposed to one minute of UVB rays.  A sunscreen with an SPF 15 is the minimum protection level you should wear.

It is important to use sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays since both can be damaging and cause skin cancer.  The UVA rays penetrate deeper into the middle layer of the skin (dermis) and the UVB rays hit the outer layer of your skin (epidermis).  Sunburn is what occurs when you are overexposed to UV radiation over a short period of time.  Long time overexposure can result in premature aging and skin cancer. 

Applying Sunscreen

 You should wear sunscreen every day, not just when you're lying on the beach.  Look for a daily facial and body moisturizer that already has SPF in it.  When you plan on being outside in direct sunlight it is important that you use sunscreen on top of an SPF moisturizer.   Be sure to apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going into the sun in order to optimize your protection.

You should apply 1 ounce, about a palmful, of sunscreen to your entire body with attention to often forgotten areas such as ears, neck, feet, and areas of thinning or balding on your head.  You should also re-apply every 1 ½ to 2 hours, especially after swimming or sweating.   Your lips are also prone to sunburn, especially if you wear lip gloss or lipstick.  There are sticks of sunscreen or lip balms that have SPF in them that can protect your lips. 

Sunscreen Makeover

In August 2007 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule requiring that the level of UVA protection in sunscreen be measured according to stars designating the level of protection.  Sunscreens would also be required to have a warning box stating the danger of UV exposure, maximum SPF would be raised from 30+ to 50+, and "waterproof" would be replaced by "water resistant" indicating that the product is still protective after 40 minutes and "very water resistant" after 80 minutes. 

The proposed rule also allows for new combinations of active ingredients as well as new testing procedures for SPF.  After the rule was introduced there was a 120 day period of public comment.  The FDA is reviewing the comments and will announce when the rule will go into effect once it has been finalized. 

Dress to Protect

When you're out in the sun, you should wear sunglasses that have 100% UVA and UVB protection.  Tinting does not add protection so check for UV protectiveness.  A wide brimmed hat is also an important form of sun protection.  Although you are likely to want to wear a summer dress or pair of shorts, tightly woven, light weight, long sleeve shirts and pants provide the best defense. 

Also on the market is protective clothing treated with chemical UV absorbers.  Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, is the amount of the sun's radiation that is absorbed into something.  Dark, thick fabrics have a much higher UPF than light colored ones.  Clothes that have a UPF factor of 15+ to 50+ may be labeled as sun protective.  You can also wash your clothing with a product called Sun Guard that can be added to your detergent to increase clothes' UPF and lasts up to 20 washings. 

Enjoy yourself this summer but make sure that you and your family are protected.  There is nothing fun about painful sunburns and the damage that the sun can cause now and later in your life. 

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