Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ask the Expert: about sun protection

Q: What does SPF stand for and what does it mean?

A: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF value refers to a product's ability to block the sun's UVB rays. It is measured by the amount of solar energy necessary to cause a noticeable sunburn. This means that when you use products with a high SPF, more solar exposure is required to induce sunburn than when you use a product with a low SPF.

Q: What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

A: UVA and UVB rays are two types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. UVA rays penetrate deeply into your skin and cause photodamage and skin aging. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and are a major cause of skin cancers.

Q: Do higher SPF values provide more protection?

A: Interestingly, SPF protection does not actually increase proportionately with a designated SPF number. For example, SPF 4 blocks 75 percent of sunburn damage; however, it may not provide broad-spectrum protection. An SPF 15 screens 93 percent of sunburn damage; and an SPF 30 screens 97 percent of sunburn damage. Most products with an SPF 15 or greater will provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVB and UVA damage, such as our Mary Kay® SPF 30 Sunscreen*. And remember, UVA radiation causes photodamage and skin aging. Higher SPF sunscreens should be used to avoid sunburn; however, they should not be used to prolong sun exposure.

Q: If I apply an SPF 15 product and follow that with another SPF 15 product, will that give me an SPF of 30?

A: No. SPF values are not additive. If you use two SPF 15 products together, you get an SPF of 15. Remember that all sunscreen products should be applied liberally to obtain the labeled SPF value.

Q: Is it true that regular use of sunscreens leads to decreased vitamin D levels causing osteoporosis and even cancer?

A: No. Adequate vitamin D levels are easily maintained with a normal diet and minimal sun exposure.

Q: What can I do to protect my skin from sun-induced damage?

A: The best way to protect your skin is to minimize your sun exposure. Practice sun-safe habits by applying a skin care product daily with an SPF of 15 or higher, wearing clothing with a tight weave, a hat with an extended brim to shade the face and neck, and sunglasses to protect the eyes. All of these steps can help reduce the potential for sun damage.

Q: What is the proper way to apply sunscreen?

A: Always follow the manufacturer's directions. Most recommend applying a generous amount of product to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outside to allow time for it to dry onto your skin. When applying it, pay particular attention to your face, ears, hands and arms, and generously coat the skin that is not covered by clothing. If you're wearing insect repellant or makeup, you should apply sunscreen before those products.

Be generous. You should use about one ounce or a "palmful" of sunscreen to cover your arms, legs, neck and face. For best results, most sunscreens must be reapplied at least every one to three hours and even more often if you are swimming or perspiring. Remember that some sunscreen can rub off when you dry yourself with a towel.

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