How does sunscreen keep you safe from the sun?

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - You know that sunscreen helps protect you from sunburn. But how does it work? What kind should you buy?

There are lots of different kinds of sunscreens: sprays, lotions, gels and/or waxes. And there are both inorganic chemicals and minerals in sunscreens. Some of these minerals include zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which both act as an overall physical sunblock. These minerals work to reflect UV rays, which can be similar to how white paint works to reflect the light. Besides minerals and inorganic chemicals, sunscreens also contain organic chemicals.

There is quite the range in SPF numbers of course in stores, anything from SPF 15 all the way up to SPF 100. The acronym SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, or how well the sunscreen works to protect against one type of UV radiation, which is called UVB. It might be helpful for you to think the letter B stands for burning. These types of rays, UVB, can lead to sunburns and/or several types of skin cancer.

Meanwhile, there’s another type of radiation, which is called UVA radiation. This type of radiation (UVA) penetrates deeper into our skin and can cause premature wrinkling or age spots and can also increase the risk for certain types of skin cancers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sunscreens with an SPF of 15 can protect against about roughly 93% of UVB rays, meanwhile, an SPF of 30 can protect against about roughly 97% of rays. No SPF’s at all can block a full 100 percent of overall UV rays, which is certainly pretty interesting.

Another interesting tidbit when it comes to this topic of sunscreens is that the overall SPF ratings state that anything higher than SPF 50 has not been proven to be any more effective than an SPF of 50.

The number on an SPF is in reference to roughly how long it will take for a person’s skin to turn the color red, due to the fact that some of the UV radiation still can partially get through the sunscreen you are using and into your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will prevent your skin from getting that bad color of red roughly fifteen times longer than it usually would. For example, if you start burning in just ten quick minutes, using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will work towards the prevention of burning for approximately 2.5 hours or 150 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends putting on new sunscreen every two hours, regardless of the overall strength in the SPF that you are using. You should also be using at minimum, at least an ounce of sunscreen. It tends to either rub off or wash off in some cases or the majority of folks don’t use quite enough of it while doing outdoor activities. So reapplying it every two hours is the key to your overall health!

Besides using and/or wearing sunscreen, you can also protect yourself from those UV rays by wearing a hat, sunglasses, or light-colored/lightweight clothing. Central Louisiana is dealing with the dog days of summer, with persistent heat and humidity, so it’s important to take the necessary precautions while outdoors especially in the summer time, staying hydrated and happy not dehydrated and unhappy!

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