According to the WHO, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world and it is increasing at a faster rate, why? Well, although the sun is a great source of energy which makes life possible on our planet, solar radiation produces effects on humans that significantly influence their health, generating some adverse effects when there is overexposure, such as: sunburn, photosensitivity, photo aging and more.
The electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and reaches the earth are ultraviolet radiation UVA and UVB, infrared radiation and visible light.
Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR)
The UVR of sunlight is made up of UVC, UVA, UVB radiation, the last two being the main radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.
The main difference between UVA and UVB is:
- In spring and summer, the predominant rays are B, UVB rays mainly cause burns, this type of rays reach the surface of the skin and produce those annoying tan lines that damage the complexion of your skin.
- On the other hand, in autumn and winter UVBs are reduced and give space to UVA rays which penetrate the skin and even glass windows, causing dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles, so it is important to take care of yourself correctly since the main consequence of this type of ray is aging.
Therefore, no matter the time, you should always use SPF to prevent either of the two rays from penetrating our skin and causing problems.
Radiation can cause severe effects on the skin, such as:
- Although tanning looks great, it has been discovered that melanin can be carcinogenic by contributing to the formation of malignant cells by photochemical reaction, hours after sun exposure
- Intensive exposure to UVR in childhood and adolescence leading to sunburn
- Skin changes associated with age or changes in photo-aging are mostly a consequence of exposure to solar radiation.
- There is a greater tendency for the development of opportunistic infections, such as herpes infection and others.
Now, let’s study some measures to prevent photo protection
- The most effective way for photoprotection is the modification of habits related to sun exposure at all levels: Use physical photoprotection measures (lenses, coats, SPF) and sun exposure during central hours, sunscreen should be applied in adequate amounts.
- Wearing protective clothing can decrease the number of acquired melanocytic nevi. The UV protection provided by clothing depends on the type and density of the fabric, the color, the pattern, and the factory finishing procedures.
- Sunscreens work by containing an active ingredient that absorbs solar radiation. In most countries, these active ingredients are regulated as cosmetics, however, in the United States, Canada, and Australia, commercial sunscreens are considered over-the-counter drugs
Main Characteristics of a Sunscreen
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF): It is a UVB protection measure, it contains the proportion of the least amount of UVR required to produce a minimum erythema on skin protected with sunscreen and that required to produce the same erythema on the skin without protection.
- UVA Protection Factor: You can recognize since the UVA symbol appears on the packaging surrounded by a circle, it is also expressed with crosses, and the greater number of signs + greater protection.
- Photo stability: Photochemical stability is the most important characteristic of an effective UV filter, since the decomposition induced by light reduces the photoprotective power and causes photo allergy and phototoxicity phenomena. Photo stable mineral filters do not degrade with sun exposure.
- Substance or Permanence: Refers to the ability of a sunscreen to remain effective in the presence of adverse conditions, mainly water and sweat.
Textures: The vehicle through which the sunscreen is applied is important to determine its effectiveness. There are different vehicles. Emulsion products such as lotions, creams and gel, being creams are the most popular.
How to choose a Sunscreen product?
First of all, SPF is one of the most important factors when choosing what type of sunscreen works best based on your skin and needs.
SPF 50+: It is suitable for children from six months. Although if you are very white it is also recommended.
SPF 50: This is the factor you should use if you have very white and delicate skin, which has a tendency to turn red and find it difficult to get a tan.
SPF 20-30: As your skin turns brown, you can reduce the SPF. A medium protection might be enough.
SPF 15: If you are already brown, or are very tanned, you can use sunscreens with a lower SPF.
On the other hand, another classification to take into account is the texture and shape of the sunscreen to choose:
Cream: This texture is suitable for dry skin, since its composition is complete and they usually have nutritional properties, you can obtain them with or without color.
Emulsion: It has a lighter texture which makes it fit very well to the needs of combined and oily skin type and you can also get it with color.
Gel: It is a very light texture and provides a very pleasant sensation of freshness which also meets the needs of combined, oily and prone to acne skin type. In addition, it spreads very well, absorbs quickly and does not add oil to the skin.
Oil: This form is best for body use, not for the face, as its texture leaves a subtle satin shine on the skin.
Protective milk: This is another type of sunscreen with a smooth texture but only recommended for the body.
Sunscreen Spray: It is applied as a mist, with a very light texture, it also leaves the skin shiny and luminous. Due to its speed in application, it is more recommended for children or when you are at the beach.
Last but not least, electronic devices can also cause major damage to the skin due to the blue light that these devices transmit.
Light is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves of variable length and intensity, the colors of the shorter waves, such as blue, correspond to waves of greater energy intensity.
Therefore, even at home we must protect ourselves from these short light waves that can affect our skin health, we may not be able to see the damages instantly, but we will see it through time when it is possibly too late to revert these effects.
So, the phrase to use photo protection at all times, is not a myth, it’s a MUST.