Red Faces, White Noses and Blue Waters

Posted on July 3, 2019 by Nick McMellon, PharmD

July is all about beaches, burgers, and America. When enjoying Florida’s white sand beaches, it is easy to fall victim to the sun’s harmful rays. Protecting your skin from harmful sun rays is an important step in preventing cancers, age spots, and wrinkles.

Many people have heard of UV, or ultraviolet, rays but do not know that there are different types. The UV spectrum is made up of three major bands: UVC, UVB and UVA. UVC radiation is reflected by the ozone layer, so UVA and UVB constitute the majority of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation that we are exposed to. While UVB is considered the primary inducer of skin cancer, it is important to use sunscreen to protect against all types of ultraviolet radiation.

When purchasing sunscreen, you must take into account the SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology shares that most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30, which blocks about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Using an SPF 50 blocks about 98% of the sun’s UVB rays.

Sunscreen can be divided into either a physical sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen. Ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the active ingredients of physical sunscreen, and they work like a shield by sitting on the skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens (essentially all other ingredients such as oxybenzone and homosalate) work like sponges and absorb the sun’s rays. A single sunblock can contain a collection of different active ingredients within the same container.

It is important to use sunscreen whenever you are outside. Other ways to avoid the sun’s ultraviolet rays is to wear protective clothing such as hats, sunshades, light fabric with longer sleeves, and pants, and to seek shade. Your pharmacist or health care provider can advise you on different ways to protect your skin from harmful sun rays. If you have a child who is less than 6 months old, sunscreen use should be avoided if possible, but you should be sure to use other methods to protect them from the sun. Enjoy the white sands and blue waters, but be sure to apply sunscreen.