A Hot Topic: The Risks and Consequences of Sun Exposure

Do you get a sunburn every summer? Read below to prevent sunburn and eliminate long term sun damage from your future.

The Not-So Bright Side Of Sun Exposure

As warmer days become abundant in the coming weeks, people are more likely to spend time in the sun. Most of us will remember to apply SPF before lounging under the sun or going for a swim at the beach or pool, but it’s those other days when the clouds are out that we forget to apply sunscreen as needed. And sometimes we forget the very serious health consequences that are associated with such forgetfulness. 

Most people can admit that they’ve experienced a sunburn at least once in their life, but what’s more concerning is that at least half of US adults are culpable of more than one sunburn annually. It’s no surprise then that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. Sunburn at any age is associated with an increased risk for skin cancer, but the higher amount of sunburns you experience in your lifetime is directly correlated with your risk for skin cancer. Did you know that experiencing five or more blister-producing sunburns between the age of 15 and 20 years of age increases your risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by 68% and melanoma by 80%?

Sunscreen acts to absorb, scatter, and reflect UV radiation to prevent damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Despite these benefits, most of us still refrain from slathering on the sunscreen. A recent study showed that a mere 14% of American men and 30% of American women regularly put sunscreen before heading outside for more than an hour. Many educational messages aim to educate us on protection for UV radiation and the use of sunscreen and other sun protecting measures but one of the most accessible healthcare providers you can reach out to are pharmacists! Don’t be afraid to reach out to us with your sun protection questions. 

Below you’ll see ten simple tips compiled by the Pharmacy team at Robinson Drug to keep you covered (literally) for sunny days. 

Ten Simple Tips for Sun Protection

  1. Apply sunscreen daily. Yes, even if it’s cloudy.  
  2. Apply at least one ounce of sunscreen (a shot glass worth) 15-30 minutes before leaving the house. Remember to apply a lip balm that contains a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  3. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning that it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. It should be water resistant and contain a SPF of 30 or higher (you might not experience sunburns with lower SPF, but you also won’t be protecting yourself against skin cancer). 
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even more often if you are swimming or sweating. 
  5. Be mindful of water and sand; these surfaces redirect the damaging rays of the sun, consequently increasing your chance of getting sunburnt. 
  6. Babies younger than 6 months old should be completely covered and in the shade.
  7. Limit how much time you spend in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. This time slot is when the sun is at its peak intensity throughout the day. Remember The Shadow Rule— if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest and most detrimental. 
  8. Wear a dark long-sleeved shirt and pants. Did you know that tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven clothes? You can also wear clothes made of sun-protective materials.
  9. Wear a hat that protects your face, neck, and ears. Don’t forget your super trendy pair of sunglasses that have a lens with 99% to 100% UV absorption (this percentage is most optimal for protection of the eye and surrounding skin). 
  10.  Be aware that some medications make you more sensitive to the sun’s rays. These include specific types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medications, and chemotherapies.

Shedding Light On The Misconceptions of SPF

When selecting a sunscreen for everyday use, it’s important to remember that not all sunscreens are made alike. The most important factor to consider when selecting sunscreen is SPF, followed by the type of coverage and its ability to resist water. A common misconception about SPf is that the SPF number depicted is related to the duration of UV exposure and therefore allows you to stay out longer in the sun. Rather, the SPF number represents the amount of UVB radiation that can result in a sunburn on protected skin compared to unprotected skin. 

Another thing people believe to be true, is that doubling your SPF doubles your protection. You might not know, but a sunscreen with SPF 15 filters approx. 93% of UVB rays whereas SPF 30 filter approx. 97% of rays. Many conceptions about sunscreens can be credited to false advertising. Companies are now banned from advertising sunscreen as “waterproof” and “sweatproof” and can only use the term “water-resistant” if applicable. Sunscreens that may be considered water-resistant must maintain their advertised SPF after 40 minutes spent in the water or sweating intensely. 

Did you know that there are currently 17 active sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA? These ingredients act in providing SPF, broad-spectrum coverage, water resistance along with treating skin sensitivities and cosmetic concerns. Regardless of which product you choose, you should incorporate sunscreen into your daily skincare regimen, and remember to apply liberally, frequently and uniformly.