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Don't get burned...

One of the women of Emerita shares the latest facts on how to protect your skin in the sun this summer.

By Amber McKenna, Emerita, on Jun 16, 2011 | 2 comments

As someone who is fair-skinned and redheaded, I grew up being slathered in sunscreen, painted with zinc, covered in hats and shoved in the shade as though the coming rays of sun were lasers preparing to strike me down.

And though these sun protection efforts were sometimes a hassle, when I didn’t go through the motions I would get burned. If you’ve been burned a time or two yourself, you know it’s the worst feeling.
First, you start itching; later that day the deep red color sinks in. Your skin is warm to the touch. The lightest piece of clothing feels like it’s scraping your flesh off, and it’s terribly difficult to find a comfortable position in which to sit or lie down. Soon, you bath in aloe vera gel (momentary sweet relief), and take a pain killer.

Many of us have been there, to sunburn city. Let’s not go back.

Protecting your skin in the sun should be a priority. Skin cancer, coarse wrinkles, veiny skin and sun spots can all come as a result of too much sun exposure.

And while it's important to get your Vitamin D from those UVB rays, it only takes about 20-40 minutes without sunscreen to fill your daily Vitamin D quota, as your body can only produce a limited amount of Vitamin D every day.

We’ve broken down the most vital information on protecting your skin from the sun, so you can enjoy the nice weather without worrying about the rays.

Sunshine smarts
• Forty percent of Americans do not wear sunscreen.
• The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going out into the sun and reapplied every two hours.
• 80 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun.
• Skin is the body’s largest organ, and its main functions are to protect, sense and regulate.

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen
These two sun protection basics are not one in the same. Sunblock contains physical filters that act as a sun-shield barrier and protect against UVA and UVB rays. Since sunblock is a physical sun filter, it sits on top of your skin and starts working instantly.

Conversely, sunscreen is transparent on your skin and takes around 30 minutes to start working. Sunscreens do protect against UVA and UVB rays, but some chemicals in sunscreens absorb into your skin, and some may irritate skin. Opt for an oil-free lotion, and preferably one with an organic formula.

Spray sunscreens don’t give you the maximum coverage you need (and most of the product blows away!); stick to the old trusty lotion.

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s thorough sunscreen research to get the lowdown on the products you're using.

The SPF breakdown
SPF stands for sun protection factor. Experts recommend a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher.

According to a recent New York Times article, SPF is calculated “by comparing the time needed for a person to burn unprotected with how long it takes for that person to burn wearing sunscreen. So a person who turns red after 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure is theoretically protected 15 times longer if they adequately apply SPF 15. Because a lot of sunscreens rub off or don’t stay put, dermatologists advise reapplication every two hours or after swimming or sweating.”

In 2007 the FDA proposed capping SPF at 50, though it hasn’t yet been made official. Experts say SPF numbers higher than 50, like 75, 90, 100+, offer only marginally better protection. What’s most important is choosing one with ingredients that protect against ultraviolet rays.

Most of all, it is essential to use enough sunscreen when applying to make the product effective. In order to receive the full benefits your tube of SPF product can offer you, an ounce must be used on your body.

Silent and strong ultraviolet rays
It’s important to make sure the sunscreen you’re using protects against UV rays, as well.

The effects of UVB rays are immediate and hit your skin right away with a burn. UVA rays, on the other hand, can affect you without notice and are one of the main causes of skin cancers. Sun protection with “broad spectrum” coverage aims to protect against these UV rays.

Because of ultraviolet rays it’s especially important to wear sunscreen even on overcast days.

You can check the strength of ultra violet radiation in your area on the EPA’s UV Index to best know what sun protection measures to take.

Tanned, burned and roasted
A sunburn is a result of the sun’s UV rays penetrating deep into your skin’s layers and killing the cells. Your skin becomes visibly red because of the increased blood flow to this area as your white blood cells work to remove the dead cells.

Having a “base tan” will not protect you from sunburn. A tan results when your skin has been damaged by UV radiation and is your body’s way of trying to block further damage. Beware: Having a tan won’t protect you from getting a sunburn…it’s only the equivalent of an SPF 4.

Ugly truth
As if you still needed a reason to be careful in the sun…here are some facts that will scare any tanning bed frequenter:
• Skin thins and becomes more sensitive to sun damage as we age.
• 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
• Smoking not only leads to wrinkles but it decreases blood flow and robs your skin of necessary nutrients—this combined with sun exposure can wreak havoc for your skin.
• Young females between 15 and 29 are the group with the fastest increasing rates of melanoma.
• Skin cancer accounts for almost 50% of cancers combined.
• Not taking care in the sun can also damage your eyes with results like cataracts and retinal damage.
• Lips and hair can be damaged by too much sun, as well. Make sure you’re using a lip product with SPF and taking care of your mane.

Enjoy the sun, get out there…hit the beach, park, trail, backyard, field or mountain…but wherever you go make sure you’re covered—literally. Don’t forget your sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats!

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