These days, sun protection is a lot more than a thick layer of greasy sunscreen – a lot more convenient, that is. Because sun protection is so essential to both health and beauty, sunscreen manufacturers strive to make effective products that are a pleasure to wear. In fact, some of your favorite make-ups and moisturizers are probably available with UV protection, making daily sun protection easy and effortless.
Sun damage in skin is responsible for a wide range of grievances, ranging from uneven skin tone and wrinkles to skin cancer. Sun protection is an important part of a long, healthy life – and indispensable to looking great over all those extra years you’re giving yourself.
The sun is harmful to human skin by way of the ultraviolet, or UV, rays it emits. UVA rays, one type of ultraviolet ray of light, makes up 95% of the ultraviolet light that finds its way to Earth. UVAs surround us in all daylight hours and can pass through glass and clouds. They are also able to penetrate skin very deeply, harming DNA and the collagen and elastin that keep skin supple and youthful. UVB rays, which make up a very small amount of the total ultraviolet light we are exposed to, do not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA rays and are generally at their peak effectiveness only between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on summer days. This might make UVB rays seem to be the lesser of the two evils, but keep in mind that UVB rays are largely responsible for sunburns and skin cancers. In addition, UVB rays cannot pass through glass like UVAs can, but that only means the UVB rays are easily reflected – which explains sunburns after a day of skiing or swimming.
Putting on sunscreen every day is just one way to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging and dangerous UV rays. Ensuring that the sunscreen provides broad-spectrum sun protection means you’ll be protected from both UVA and UVB rays; and if you plan on being in the water or being physically active, a waterproof sunscreen means you won’t unintentionally rinse or sweat it off. Also, the sunscreen should offer a sun protection factor – or SPF – of at least 15. This is considered “medium” protection: for people with fairer or more sun-sensitive skin and for children, a higher SPF is probably more appropriate. Sunscreen is also available in oil-free formulas, in hypoallergenic formulas, in organic formulas, as a spray, infused with body glitter, infused with colors, infused with self-tanners, infused with bug repellent, and chock-full of aloe vera, to name just a few varieties.
Many of your favorite brands of make-up offer protection as well. An SPF of 15 or 20 is commonly found in such items as foundation, concealer, face powder, blush, and lip glosses and sticks; and increasingly, make-up manufacturers are adding SPFs to eye shadow, face glitter, and other fun beauty products. Check the labels on the products your favorite brand offers to see if the products you currently enjoy are also available infused with SPF.
In addition to cosmetic products such as lotions, make-up, creams, or sprays, certain articles of clothing are also great additions to your sun protection arsenal. Hats, particularly those with brims, offer protection to the top of your head and face; while long sleeves and pants protect your arms and legs. But because it may be too hot in the sun to comfortably clothe yourself from head to toe, you may want to consider using sunscreen as protection, or a combination of clothing and an SPF-infused product. To protect your eyes, be sure to wear sunglasses that offer UV protection.