What's all the Hoopla About SPF?

The Issue: Sunburn

So I figured since I do not have a shortage of skin pigment, I don't need sunscreen in the summer. Then I read an article about a woman who got skin cancer on one side of her face because that side faced the window in her office. She never used sunscreen because she was an African- American woman and felt that black women don’t get sunburn or skin cancer. After reading that, I decided, its time to get some year-round sunscreen. I opted for SPF 30 winter, spring, and fall, and I recently just bought SPF 100+ for summer and beach protection. No skin cancer here! 

The Stats: (From The Skin Cancer Foundation)
  •  Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases in two million people are diagnosed annually.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. One person dies of melanoma every 62 minutes.
  • The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 50.
  • First exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent
  • Asian American and African American melanoma patients have a greater tendency than Caucasians to present with advanced disease at time of diagnosis.
  • Melanomas in African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
Well if I have to be so careful in the sun, how do I tan? I’m sure you’ve noticed the orange-yellow lizard skin of some older women who tan frequently. Well most people don’t think about it, but tanning is basically voluntary perpetuation of skin cancer. The reason is because Ultra Violet (UV) rays penetrate the skin causing DNA and cell damage, and then melanin (skin pigment) is produced as a response to the damage. This is similar to the formation of scabs after an injury. Increased exposure to UV rays, whether indoor or outdoor, results in age spots, altered skin texture, wrinkling, eye damage, and immune suppression. Long story short, tanning is bad news.

The Solution: 
Get some Sunscreen. I’ve been hearing different things about sunscreen, like the higher SPF means the amount of time it takes before wearing off, or it doesn’t matter how high the SPF is because its all the same after SPF 30. Well what’s true? 

Everyone needs sunscreen, and the best ones are water-resistant, with UVA and UVB protection and minimal of SPF 30. SPF stands for Sun Protecting Factor, and it refers to the product's ability to deflect the sun's burning rays, or UVB. How does it work? Well based on the information from the American Academy of Dermatology, the SPF rating shows the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin. In laymen terms that means, multiply the SPF times the amount of time it takes you to burn. So if you have SPF 30 and it takes you 10 minutes to burn regularly, then 10x30= 300, so it will take 300 minutes to burn in oppose to 10.  No SPF provides 100% protection, in fact SPF 15 provides 94%, SPF 30 provides 97%, and SPF 100 provides 99% against harmful UV rays. And even with this protection, all sunscreen breaks down and rubs off with normal wear, sweat, and swimming, so its best to reapply every two hours.

So go ahead and get your sunscreen on, and stay protected all year long!