Sunscreen 101

Ahhhh. Summer has finally arrived! I love summer! There is something so wonderful about warm weather and all the great adventures that come with it. I have to tell you my first love of summer is flip flops. I just can’t get enough of them; I absolutely think they are fabulous! Next, on my list is the fresh summer produce like strawberries, peaches, and my favorite: sweet corn…. Yum, yum! And I would have to say my favorite summer adventure is swimming. I love going to the pool; and when you have an 18-month-old toddler who tags along, the pool truly becomes an adventure.

By now most pools have opened for the summer season and will most likely abound with kids and parents splashing, swimming, and just having a great time. And of course there are the “lucky” people who lounge poolside with a book in hand just soaking up the sun. There are some days I wish that were me!

For most of us summer is the time to shed our winter-colored skin for that of beautiful golden hues. Let’s face it; we all want to have that healthy summer glow. Before we even begin to achieve it for ourselves, it’s plastered on almost every magazine cover. And we can’t wait to get out in the sun to begin to achieve that radiant appearance.

Like most things in life there are risks. And when we begin our adventures in the summer sun, we’re taking a risk. First comes sunburn and over time skin damage that can possibly lead to skin cancer. And for some of us this is already a reality. So we need to be proactive now and think prevention!

Of course, we are warned from the first warm days in June of our first line of defense: sunscreen. Yes, we all need to be using sunscreen, especially if we plan on being outdoors in the sun for a prolonged period of time. And not just one application will do; we need to be continually reapplying it so we can have the best protection. So, how do we begin preventing sunburn? According to MedicineNet.com: “The best ways to avoid sunburn are to: limit time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.; wear protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat, a shirt with sleeves that cover the arms, and a long skirt or pants with long legs; use a protective sunscreen to minimize the penetration of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.” Wow, I think I’m safe in saying that is a little extreme for most of us.

So if you absolutely can’t stay indoors all summer and continue to wear your winter clothing, what do you do next? This is where sunscreen comes into play. Now the really tricky question is: What kind of sunscreen do I buy? Wikipedia states that “The best sunscreens protect against both UVB (ultraviolet radiation with wavelength between 290 and 320 nanometres <;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanometre> ), which can cause sunburn, and UVA (between 320 and 400 nanometres), which damages the skin with more long-term effects, such as premature skin aging.”

But that still leaves us with the fact that there are so many options out there. I just found myself today standing in front of the display case in the grocery store trying to decide what kind of sunscreen to buy. Finally, I left with a bottle of SPF 15 and another bottle of SPF 50. The funny thing is I really don’t know what SPF means, except the higher I go the less likely I am to burn. MedicineNet.com states “SPF, an abbreviation for sun-protection factor, is a number such as 15, 30, or 50 that indicates how long a topical sunscreen remains effective on the skin. A user can determine the duration of effectiveness simply by multiplying the SPF by the length of time it takes for him or her to suffer a burn without sunscreen.” So, it takes me probably about 5-10 minutes before I start to burn; if I use the SPF 15 sunscreen I will be protected for about 75-150 minutes. Pretty cool predictor! In addition, that is just about the correct length of time until I apply my second coat.

Now that we know a little more about sunscreen, it’s time to use it. So head over to your local store and purchase some. Begin your summer skin prevention now, and don’t wait until the damage is already done. We can all achieve our beautiful summer glow in a healthy way when we use sunscreen. So, come on and let’s enjoy summer together, providing safe care for our skin that will last us a lifetime.