The truth about sunscreen probably isn’t what you think. Although it’s a relatively common personal items – particularly during the spring and summer months – sunscreen is mostly misunderstood. Some think it’s a sure-fire cancer preventer, others regard it as a negative factor for optimum health. For these folks, the sunscreen vs. no sunscreen debate is already settled.
But where does the actual truth come into play? Is sunscreen a wonder product, or should you avoid it at all costs? What is sunscreen made out of, and will that information help decide whether or not you should use it? How important (and accurate) are SPF numbers? Facts about sunscreen don’t always readily surface, but no worries – the Urgent Care Extra research team did some work on our end, and we’re passing our findings along to you!
The Truth About Sunscreen: Fact vs. Fiction
The sunscreen rumor mill rarely lets up, especially in the summertime. But gossip and misinformation helps nobody, especially when you consider that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the USA. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 75,000 people per year are diagnosed with melanomas of the skin (the most serious form of skin cancer). Sadly, more than 10% of those diagnosed cases end in fatalities. In 2013, over 9,000 Americans died as a result of melanoma.
Here are some sunscreen facts for your consideration:
The SPF rating isn’t just a number. The SPF rating is one of the most misunderstood facts about sunscreen. A common misconception about sunscreen it that the SPF rating doesn’t matter. But it does, ever so slightly. A sunscreen’s SPF (short for sun protection factor) tells you how effective it is at blocking ultraviolet rays (both UVA and UVB). For example, a sunscreen rated SPF 15 blocks less than 95% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreen protects against up to 97%. When you go any higher in terms of SPF, the difference in terms of protection is minimal, with SPF 50 blocking between 98% and 99% of potentially harmful UVB light. Essentially, stick to a sunscreen with SPF 30, and remember that…
Extra applications help. Even if you’re using a waterproof sunscreen, it’s always a good idea to apply more sunscreen once you’re out of the water, or after you’ve been outdoors for a few hours. Most dermatologists recommend multiple applications per day in sunny climate (something to keep in mind for Arizona residents). Regardless of whether you’ve been active or not, or even if the sun doesn’t come out that day, apply extra sunscreen.
Forget the metabolism myth. As the theory goes, sunscreen can “mess up” the body’s basic metabolic processes because it can limit Vitamin D absorption. But that’s simply not true. If you’re outside, you’re producing Vitamin D – regardless of how much sunscreen you’re using.
It can help prevent skin cancer. Notice we didn’t say sunscreen was a catch-all for skin cancer. But it is one of the preferred frontline defenses against the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). A study from the ACS shows that a sunscreen rated SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, which drastically lowers the risk for skin cancers such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and more.
Go with broad-spectrum protection. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends any sunscreen with “broad-spectrum” protection. What does this mean? There are two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. A broad-spectrum sunscreen blocks both types of rays, which is beneficial to your skin. The AAD also suggests using at least a rating of SPF 30, ideally in a waterproof application.
Don’t let cloudy days fool you. The sun’s rays are incredibly resilient. They always find a way onto your skin, even if it’s cloudy and overcast outside. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it can’t find you. As a general rule of thumb, use the same amount of sunscreen on sunny and cloudy days – you never know when the sun might peek out behind the clouds, and even if it doesn’t, sunscreen is effective since clouds can reflect the light onto your skin.
What Is Sunscreen Made Out of?
The sunscreen manufacturing process is highly specialized, much more so now than in past years. Twenty years ago, sunscreen varieties were limited. These days, there’s a sunscreen for everybody: non-oily, fresh scent, waterproof, SPF 30, SPF 50, SPF 15, lotion, mist spray – name your sunscreen preference, and there’s probably a manufacturer that sells it.
Despite the near-endless types of sunscreens available, a core group of ingredients show up in most sunscreens. Parsol 1789 helps block UVA rays, while other compounds like oxybenzone provide further ultraviolet protection. Titanium oxide is another common sunscreen ingredient, because it dilutes UV rays, rather than absorbing them. You’ll also note that most sunscreens are labeled “PABA-free,” which means that it contains something called padimate-O. PABA compounds irritate sensitive skin, while padimate-O doesn’t.
Some more expensive sunscreens can contain chamomile, green tea and aloe to help moisturize skin and also absorb helpful compounds in the sunscreen. Word to the wise: find a sunscreen that works for you, preferably one that’s waterproof and, per the AAD’s recommendation, has a minimum SPF 30 rating.
Urgent Care Extra: Keeping Arizona Residents Safe in “Sun Central”
Arizona’s sunny weather is one of the main reasons people are drawn to the state. But that same blazing sun that defines Arizona’s climate can cause serious health hazards, especially in the form of skin cancer. The CDC did a statewide study in 2011, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the results showed cause for concern. Gila County’s death rate from melanoma is 70% more than the entire United States average, while new melanoma cases spiked more than 50% in Coconico County. Mirroring national averages, Arizona’s total melanoma diagnosis breakdown is 75% higher in men than women. So when it comes to sunscreen vs. no sunscreen, we recommend sunscreen. Arizona’s sunny climate and high national averages for skin cancer make sunscreen an essential accessory for active, outdoor-oriented residents.
The heat is on in Arizona – and it rarely relents! But Urgent Care Extra is here to help with any sunburn or heat-related illnesses you and your family encounter, including heat exhaustion treatment. With walk-in healthcare clinics all over the region to serve you, UCE is in your corner – and best of all, no appointments are necessary!
Forget trying to schedule a visit with your primary care physician, or waiting endless hours at the emergency room; for non-life-threatening medical events, Urgent Care Extra’s convenient hours, professional medical staff and affordable coverage make us your best possible option for medical care in Arizona.
Thanks again for stopping by the UCE blog. For any questions you have about sunscreen or anything else, please stop in or give us a call at (480) 988-9108.