Embracing Sunscreen for Radiant Skin

Protecting your skin with daily sunscreen use.



(Ground Picture / Shutterstock.com)

It’s Spring and the weather is changing. Birds, bees, and butterflies once again make their homes in trees and gardens. The tops of dandelions, tulips, and crocuses peek through the young spring grass. And the sun is shining brighter than ever.

With spring here and summer on its heels, it’s the season to enjoy the sun and the outdoors. But, before flocking to the beach or the picnic, it’s important to remember to put on sunscreen. This sometimes-funny-smelling white cream can keep a variety of conditions, from malignant carcinomas and melanomas to eczema, acne, rosacea, and even premature aging of the skin, at bay, the Cleveland Clinic explains. In fact, sunscreen is so potent and healthy that people really should be wearing it every day, even during the cloudy season.

Wear sunscreen daily
Dermatologist Dr. Melissa Piliang tells Cleveland Clinic, “We get a lot of sun exposure just going about our daily lives.” More So than we realize. For example, a 2010 study that found that men were more susceptible to skin cancer on the left side of their bodies. Why? Possibly because that side soaks up the sun while one is driving a car. And, whereas windshields may be able to block up to 96 percent of harmful UV rays, the side windows may only prevent 44 percent of these rays from hitting the driver. 

Sunscreen doesn’t just penetrate windshields and windows. It can also poke through cloud cover. According to the Cleveland Clinic, clouds only hold back about 20 percent of harmful UV rays. Piliang tells Cleveland Clinic, “It might even be a bit breezy out, so you don’t even think about the sun because you can’t see it, But you do still get a significant amount of sun exposure. It can catch you very easily on a cloudy day, so you have to be extra vigilant.” 

Another example, cited by Cleveland Clinic is the fluorescent lights in an office. Piliang tells Cleveland Clinic that, “The fluorescent lights in our offices even produce some ultraviolet light. This is why wearing daily sunscreen is really important.”

Sunscreen can prevent more than just skin cancer
It is important to put on sunscreen properly, according to Healthline, to prevent dangerous melanomas and painful sunburns. However, that isn’t the only benefit garnered by applying sunscreen. Sunscreen can prevent wrinkles and skin discolorations and also help fade scars.

Additionally, while the damage from the sun’s rays is well known, less well known is the impact of blue light from electronics on the skin. According to one 2022 study, certain types of sunscreen, including those containing the chemical phenylene bisdiphenyltriazine maybe protect against the “cellular photodamage” from the blue light that emanates from screens and electronic devices.

Daily use of sunscreen, even in the winter or on cloudy days, can confer numerous health benefits on the wearer. Unfortunately, sunscreen use suffers from two factors: bad PR and improper usage.

Mythbusting: Can sunscreen be unhealthy?
Wired laments that influencers, like Gwenyth Paltrow, have pushed misinformation that sunscreen contains harsh chemicals that can actually damage the skin or prevent that “healthy tan.” The result is that many are concerned about the health impact of daily sunscreen use. One survey, for example, found that only 55 percent of Australians believed that sunscreen could be used daily in a safe way. 

Beauty blogger, Michelle Wong, tells Wired that many sunscreen users fear the long, unpronounceable, inorganic-sounding, chemical ingredients in sunscreens, for example homosalate, octocrylene, octisalate.

“There are a lot of organizations that are quite pseudoscientific, and they tend to always fear-monger about sunscreen ingredients. And a lot of it is simply because the names sound scary,” Wong explains.

Additionally, sunscreen got bad PR from rumors that suggested wearing sunscreen with the chemical “oxybenzone” in it could actually cause cancer or even harm coral reefs when swimmers used the sunscreen at beaches. However, Wired points out, these conclusions are based on slathering oxybenzone all over the body every single day, something that even the most religious sunscreen user is unlikely to do. 

“Based on the current evidence, I don’t think oxybenzone is much of a concern for our health or for coral,” Wong says. “For most of us, it’s just not that much of a concern.” She adds that these chemicals shouldn’t be used on babies under six months old, but don’t pose a health risk for the general population or the coral reefs.

Another bad rumor about sunscreen is that it can prevent the skin from absorbing necessary amounts of vitamin D. However, it’s a myth that sunscreen completely blocks all the rays that our skin needs to produce vitamin D. Just ten minutes of sun exposure is enough to get all the daily vitamin D needed, and sunscreen doesn’t significantly inhibit healthy vitamin D levels.

How to use sunscreen
Another issue preventing sunscreen from realizing its full health potential is improper usage. People don’t apply enough, rub it in in a haphazard fashion, or use an SPF that is too low. In fact, one study attributes rising skin cancer rates to people confidently frolicking at the beach, thinking they are protected, when their sunscreen is actually misapplied.

Healthline breaks down how to apply sunscreen and which blend to choose. Citing the American Academy of Dermatology, Healthline recommends looking for a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30, one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (a broad-spectrum sunscreen), and one that is water resistant.

Sunscreens come in two varieties, dermatologist Dr. Jessica “Nikki” Dietert tells Healthline. These include chemical sunscreen, which filters out harmful UV rays, and mineral sunscreen which blocks the rays. 

“[Mineral-based sunscreens] generally protect your skin from a broader spectrum of UV light,” Dietert explains. “For this reason, finding a sunscreen with mineral ingredients is ideal.” Plus, “These are less likely to cause irritation and skin allergies,” for those with sensitive skin, she adds.

Dietert also recommends that everyone, regardless of skin color, apply sunscreen daily. “Lighter skin tones are at higher risk for skin cancer,” she says. “However, with enough UV exposure, all skin types can develop skin cancer.” 

In fact, one study found that people with darker skin were more likely to die of skin cancer possibly because these populations were more susceptible to misinformation telling them they don’t need to protect their skin.

Steps for applying sunscreen
News 9 Live breaks down the steps for applying sunscreen so that the skin is entirely covered and protected. For the face and neck, start with about two fingers’ worth. Rub down the bridge of the nose, across the cheeks to the ears, then cover the chin, forehead, and the area below the nose. People with thinning hair will need to cover their scalp with sunscreen or a hat as well. A balm with UV protection can keep the lips protected and keep them from getting chapped. When it comes to the rest of the body, any exposed area, including arms, legs, neck and back should be covered well.

Wired adds that people should gently massage the cream in, citing research that uncovered that sunscreen's ability to protect the skin can be reduced by up to twenty percent when the cream is rubbed in too harshly.

Whether it's harmful rumors, lack of knowledge, or misuse, people aren't using enough sunscreen to keep their skin safe and youthful. Everyone deserves a day at the beach or enjoying the outdoors and adequate sun protection can help people do so safely. 

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