Tag Archives: SPF

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Shedding Light on SPF

-Marissa Tomko

I brush my teeth seven times a day. I consider salads to be a food group. I think nail care is very important, and I tell people about every little pain I feel just in case I randomly lapse into a coma and the doctors need to figure out what caused it.

That is just the beginning of the list of peculiar health obsessions that I picked up from my dad. But they’re not all weird. One actually important habit I picked up from my old man: compulsive sunscreen application.

The sun emits two types of rays that reach the earth: UVB and UVA. UVB, or ultraviolet B rays, are short wave rays that highly contribute to sunburns and skin cancers. Most sunblocks are used to protect you from UVB rays. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, this is because up until recently, it was thought that they are more dangerous than UVA rays. However, this is not the case. The CDC notes that UVA rays are the most common rays that warm the earth, and that they increase our chances of getting skin cancer. UVA rays are long wave rays that cause aging effects in the skin, such as wrinkles. It is also the main ray responsible for that golden tan so many of us long for, which over time, can cause skin cancer. Tanning salons use UVA emitting beds, and lounging in one ups your chances of getting melanoma by 75 percent after just one use—that’s pretty scary.

I know what you’re thinking—all of this ray knowledge makes you feel powerful. In fact, I know you’re reading this on your smart phone and are in the sunscreen aisle at the supermarket right now! But what kind of SPF do you buy? And what does SPF even mean?! I too, have asked these questions, and would love to shed some (sun)light on the answers.

SPF stands for sun protection factor. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sunscreens must have an SPF label, as dictated by the FDA. The SPF label tells you what percentage of UVB rays are being absorbed or deflected by the sunscreen inside. (Because of this, it is important to look for broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.) The EPA recommends that you use an SPF of 15 or higher if you plan on being exposed to the sun for more than twenty minutes. SPF 15 protects you from ninety three percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen will absorb or deflect ninety seven percent.

I don’t get serious very often. But when it comes to sun protection, I turn into a mom. (Love you mom!) No matter who you are or what color of skin you have, it is imperative that you cover up and protect yourself. I love a day in the water or a nap in the sun as much as the next guy, but I love my health more. So when you slip on your aviators for your next adventure, slather on some sunblock, and throw on a ball cap and a button up. Your old-age self will thank you.