Sunscreen: Why It Is Good For Your Skin & Your Hair?
It is normal for people to associate sunscreen with summer. After all, once the sun came out it was standard practice for mothers or fathers to pull those blue bottles of factor 30 out of hiding and smother you until your arms, face, neck, and legs were covered in a thick layer of white paste. Then our days are spent at the beach or sunbathing on picnic blankets on the green catching rays until our skin turns a lovely shade of olive – or pink for the unlucky burners out there that forgot to put on their sunscreen in the first place.
However, while many people love the sun it is a simple fact that the sun does not love you back. Too much exposure to sun will have negative drawbacks for instance wrinkles, premature ageing such as sagging and age spots, and, in a worst-case scenario, cancer.
Sunscreen is an important part of a complete sun protection strategy and is the best defence against issues related to sun exposure. Next to staying out of the sun completely, of course. However, not all sunscreens are equally effective. When you are purchasing your sunscreen it is important to read the label to understand what you’re putting on before you head outside.
SPF is an indicator of the time it would take for you to get a sunburn if you were not wearing any sunscreen. It represents the sunscreens’ ability to block ultraviolet B rays (UVB) which can cause sunburns but not UVA rays which are linked to sun damage. Either way, both UVB and UVA rays contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer. That’s why when you are checking the label of your sunscreen you also want to look out for the word “broad spectrum”. This means that your sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays.
When deciding on the level of SPF most dermatologists suggest using an SPF of 30 in most cases. But it’s not as simple as applying it once in the morning then heading out for a day of fun in the sun. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours for effective protection. After all, it was once said, “The best sunscreen is the sunscreen that is being used properly.”
Decreases Chances Of Skin Cancer & Skin Precancers
As previously stated sunscreen is your best chance of decreasing your risk of skin cancer and skin precancers. It is a known and well researched fact according to the Skin Cancer Organisation that regular and daily use of an SPF of 15 or more can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which is the second most common type of skin cancer by about 40% and lower your melanoma risk by 50%. Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that is less common than SCC but is more deadly as it spreads to other organs rapidly if not treated in its early stages of development. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world according to the American Cancer Society and a lot of it could be avoided or reduced simply by introducing sunscreen into your routine.
Prevents Exposure To UV Rays & Decreases Chance Of Sunburn
Sunburn is extremely painful and can lead to pink, peeling and damaged skin. Owch! Sunscreen helps protect against harmful UV rays. UV rays reach and penetrate your skin through exposure to sunlight as well as tanning beds and sun lamps and damage the DNA of skin cells. While UV rays make up only a small percentage of the sun’s rays they are the main culprit behind sun damage on skin. Wearing broad spectrum SPF sunscreen blocks UV rays by acting like a very thin invisible bulletproof vest that stops the UV photons before they reach the skin and inflict damage. According to Scientific American this is because sunscreen contains molecules that absorb UV rays and inorganic pigments that absorb, scatter and reflect UV.
Helps To Prevent Premature Skin Ageing
Sunscreen doesn’t just prevent you from getting sunburns or skin cancer but also contains anti-aging properties. A study conducted in Australia used 900 participants who were followed over the course of four years. Half of those participants were instructed to use sunscreen daily and were also told how to reapply it properly (every 2-3 hours, after washing, after sweating, etc) while the other half were given sunscreen but not told how frequently they should use it, when to reapply it and they could decide if they wanted to use the sunscreen at all. They found that those that used sunscreen daily were 24% less likely to show signs of ageing.
These days it is common practice to use sunscreen in your morning skincare routine.
Protects Your Immune System From Other Threats
When your skin gets damaged by exposure to UV rays your cells become less effective at detecting and defending against threats to the immune system. This means your body struggles to fight off diseases. It also slows down the body’s natural ability to heal itself. However, this can all be prevented by applying sunscreen regularly to protect your skin from UV damage in the first place. Using sunscreen can help keep your immune system in peak condition.
Protects Your Hair From Sun Damage
As it turns out your skin isn’t the only thing that is deeply affected by prolonged sun exposure. Your hair is too. When hair is subjected to prolonged exposure to the sun, UVA and UVB rays can damage the outer cover of the hair strand, also known as the hair cuticle. You can notice sun damaged hair by discoloration or bleaching, dry or brittle hair strands, broken or split ends, and frizzy, thinning hair. While experts don’t suggest you start slathering your hair in sunscreen they do suggest using hair products such as Styling Funk hair wax and Matte Lava Clay that have natural sun protectors in them such as coconut oil and argan oil which protect from UV radiation and have a high smoke point so they are able to act as heat protectors for the hair. This would also work for you if you just used the raw organic argan oil from the bottle and massaged it into your scalp and over your hair.
While there is no specific product that’s perfect for everyone, using a sunscreen is one of the best ways to help protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays and the plethora of side effects that that exposure causes. If you’re planning to spend any amount of time in the sun, be it Summer, Spring or any other season, get yourself a sunscreen that is best for your skin, slather it on and make sure you repeat that process every 2-3 hours.
Stay safe and have plenty of fun in the sun!
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Zheelana is a writer based in Cardiff. She has a BA Honours in English and Creative Writing and is a certified TESOL teacher. When she isn’t out hiking in the lush Welsh countryside, she fills her days with reading, journaling, and going out for food.