In my neighborhood there were very few kids, but the lucky ones had swimming pools. While my single mom was working hard to provide all the essentials, and occasional splurges, I was being watched by one of my neighbors who had a daughter approximately my age. Most of the time we were outside drawing on the pavement with chalk, bouncing on a trampoline or doing belly flops into her pool for hours and hours. This was the usual cause of my sunburns. I remember the first extreme sunburn I had and all the gross things that came along with it, including shedding your skin like a lizard. Little did I know that I was doing damage that would last beyond the weeks of recovery and into my adult life, putting me at a much higher risk for skin cancer. This actually doubles your risk of Melanoma by the way. Had I, or my mother, known this I’m sure she would have sewn some sort of garment that would leave me looking like a sock puppet and I would probably still be wearing it to this day. Love you, Mom. 🙂
Having recently suffered a sunburn I began to wonder. Had I not used enough SPF? What is SPF? What’s the difference between Sunblock and Sunscreen? Oye vey! Too many questions! Instead of worrying about my sunglasses or which tote matched my swimsuit I should have been more focused on the Sunscreen! The best summer accessory! As I continue my path through adulthood I find myself being more into form than function and being practical about my healthcare. Yes, a glowing tan looks healthy by our pop culture standards, but that can easily be done by the bottle, or by letting someone airbrush you like you’re a house. I’ve had it done and that is exactly what I felt like. My siding needed a facelift. So now that we’ve solved the aesthetic issues let’s get down to the brass tacks of it all.
Of course this is a much bigger topic than this blog so I encourage you to read these few facts, do your research and share the knowledge with others.
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock?
In my mind I thought they were interchangeable, but clearly looking at the words they serve two different objectives. Sunblock actively reflects the sun’s rays from the skin. It is thicker and opaque and is a solid barrier to the surface to which it is applied. No tan will be had from this form of protection. Sunscreen will still let rays in, but will prohibit many of the rays from entering the skin. This is the more common form of protection, but does have different chemicals which some people can be sensitive to when used.
What is SPF?
It stands for Sun Protection Factor. It measures how well a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays which are simply put, “the bad ones.” UVB rays are the culprits of skin damage, photo aging, sunburns and can contribute to skin cancer. Not all sunscreens are created equal either and frankly I feel someone was asleep at the wheel when doing the math, but here it goes…
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
Did you catch that? Yep, SPF 30 doesn’t do much more than SPF 15. Still, I strongly suggest SPF 30 over 15 any day. Wondering why I didn’t mention the often seen,but rarely purchased SPF 100? Well, it turns out, that SPF 100 often is misleading to people as well and certainly doesn’t offer much more protection that the ones I just mentioned.
So, what is the best Summer accessory?
Beautiful and healthy skin, of course!
Wear it! Simple as that. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sunscreen, Sunblock, Sun Protection and more. And of course, see your dermatologist regularly for skin screenings. Too often we worry about the more obvious check ups for our eyes or teeth, but neglect the most precious part of our bodies that keeps us all together, our skin. If you or someone you know is suffering from skin cancer you are likely already spreading awareness about the issue. Unfortunately, skin cancer (commonly referred to as Melanoma, but this is just one form of the different variants of skin cancer) is a growing statistic due to lack of knowledge and awareness. Nearly 160,000 new cases of Melanoma occur each year. Viral videos and images have spread across the media outlets to increase awareness, but this is just the beginning of knowing more and more about this dangerous epidemic. Start protection and awareness with your children so they can fight the cause we were so naive about growing up.
Remember, the best protection against the sun occurs by staying out of it. I don’t intend for you to become a hermit, but wear a floppy hat, large sunglasses and take a little shade from time to time. Think of how glamorous the fashion accessories and all the years you’ll have to wear them being so proactive with your health.