Protecting the Skin from the Sun

April 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Skin Care

The sun is one factor that can have the largest impact on the skin. Due to this, there is a wide range of products which are designed to protect the sun from the impact of the sun, helping you maintain a young looking skin. These products include skin
creams, tanners, skin lotions, or skin oils.

All these sun protection products come with a number on its label known as SPF or Sun Protection Factor. The number can be anything from 2 to 50. The number is said to be indicative of the degree of protection that particular products affords to the skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

SPF or Sun Protection Factor

The sun protection factor on the sunscreen conveys to the user how long a person can stay under the sun using that sunscreen without the skin getting sunburn. The higher the SPF number, the longer the protection afforded by that sunscreen to the skin.

The SPF is calculated in comparison with the time taken for skin to burn without any sun protection. Consider the scenario where unprotected skin might burn under the sun in a matter of 20 minutes. If a person is using a sun protection with an SPF of 15, what it conveys is that the user can remain under the sun, without any damage to his skin, 15 times the time he can stay there sans a sunscreen.

20 minutes multiplied by 15 is five hours, and so, using a sunscreen of an SPF of 15 a person can remain under sun for five hours with minimal damage to his skin. 15 is the highest SPF offered by most sun protection products and numbers above it offer only a slight time difference in skin protection. Most sunburns can be effectively prevented by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15.

Most sunscreens offer protection to the skin only from ultraviolet B rays or UVB. In any case, SPF refers only to protection afforded from ultraviolet B rays. There are sunscreens that offer protection from UVA rays as well. But these do not generally show any SPF rating with relation to it.

Sunscreen lotions or creams should be uniformly applied on the skin. Contact with water, as while swimming, or sweating, can reduce its effectiveness, and so sunscreens have to reapplied frequently. And the first application should ideally be done 20 minutes before exposing skin to the sun, giving it time to be absorbed into the skin.

Choosing the right SPF

An SPF of 15 is found to be sufficient for most people, so far as it is applied recurrently. Those with a sensitive skin, or have a fair skin, or have a red or light-colored hair, might need a higher SPF. Likewise, those who are traveling in tropical countries, or at high altitudes, might also benefit with a high SPF. A dark skin can stand sunrays for a longer duration and so, for people with a darker skin, a lower SPF might suffice.

Other sun protection products

Instead of tanning the skin under the sun, it is better to use self-tanning products or bronzers. However, those who expose their skin to the sun should clearly check the length of time for which the particular product offers protection, as indicated by the SPF. It is not safe to use it longer than that.