Good Sun, Bad Sun
“Make sure you put on sunscreen.” This is a statement often heard in the months of June, July, and August throughout the United States. Although exposure to the ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays of the sun triggers the production of vitamin D in the skin (a good thing), these rays are also the culprits in the development of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. The likelihood of developing melanoma increases with increased exposure to the sun. The traditional preventive measure most people take is to slather sunscreen on their bodies. But, people planning to spend time outdoors must take care when choosing a sunscreen.
Sunscreens are formulated with varying levels of sun protection factors (SPFs). The SPF is a number equivalent to the amount of time a person can be in the sunlight with a sunscreen applied without being sunburned based on the amount of time he or she can be in the sunlight without a sunscreen applied before being sunburned. For example, Aunt Dora can weed her garden on a sunny afternoon for 30 minutes before she begins to sunburn if she has not applied sunscreen. However, if she lotions up with a sunscreen with SPF 10, she can weed away for 300 minutes (30×10), or 5 hours, before she begins to sunburn. The faster you burn in the sun without sunscreen on, the higher SPF you will likely desire to span the amount of time you intend to soak up the rays.
To PABA, or Not to PABA
PABA is the short form of para-aminobenzoic acid. It is a form of folic acid, a nutrient, but often only associated as a sunscreen ingredient, as it helps protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation. PABA, though, can stain clothing and, in excess, can cause nausea, skin rashes, and vomiting. Check your sunscreen label for PABA-if PABA is not contained in the sunscreen, the label will read “PABA-free.”
Water-resistant vs. Waterproof
Your outdoor activities will help you determine whether you will need a sunscreen that is formulated as water-resistant or waterproof. If you are speed walking in the park or taking your dog out for a run, that is, likely to be sweating, then a water-resistant formula should be sufficient for you. It will provide sunburn protection for 40 minutes of water exposure. If you are going swimming at the neighborhood pool or to the local water park, consider a waterproof formula. It will provide sunburn protection for 80 minutes of water exposure.
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation
Balancing exposure and protection is the key to a healthy relationship with the sun. It is generally accepted that a 10- to 15-minute walk in the sunshine, without sunscreen protection, a few days a week provides enough exposure to ultraviolet rays for the production of vitamin D to occur in the body. If continuing outdoor activities after 10 to 15 minutes, then a sunscreen formulated to meet your individual needs should be applied, and reapplied, as needed.