Many people believe that a liberal application of sunscreen is sufficient to protect them from the ravages of solar radiation. But new evidence suggests that people may have to do more than apply factor fifty to their skin to protect them against the sun’s rays.
Most people believe that if they apply lots of sunscreen to the skin, then it will block out UV rays. But according to a report by David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, just applying sunscreen may not be enough.
The reason for this, he says, is that people change their behavior following the application of sunscreen. Those who put on sunscreen are likely to spend more time in the sun, upping their total UV exposure above that of a person who doesn’t apply sunscreen at all.
The problem with sunscreen is that it can’t block out all UV light, only some of it, meaning that it’s possible to accumulate greater exposure if you remain in direct sunlight all day long. People who wear sunscreen, therefore, may not be any better off.
So They Should Use Other Lines Of Defense
People who want to protect their skin this summer, therefore, should seek alternative methods to protect their skin, such as using clothing or hats. Hats provide shade, while white clothing reflects more of the sun’s rays, preventing damage to skin cells.
It’s a common belief that the higher the SPF level, the better. But researchers at the Environmental Working Group say that the benefits of choosing sun protection factor above fifty are marginal at best. High SPF sunscreens give people a false sense of security and make them believe that they’re fully protected from the sun and so can stay out in it longer, but that’s not the case.
When choosing a sunscreen, researchers say that people should do the following:
Sunscreen manufacturers implore people to reapply sunscreen at regular intervals. But this isn’t just something that they say to get people to use more of their product - it’s essential for keeping sun protection levels high.
Over time, sunscreen loses its effectiveness, either because it rubs off the skin or sinks into deeper layers. For it to work as intended, it needs to be reapplied regularly according to manufacturer instructions. When the UV hits the skin, it degrades the chemical blockers in the sunscreen which eventually lose their effectiveness. Sunscreen, therefore, isn’t like a giant mirror, reflecting the sun’s rays, but something that gets used up the longer you wear it.
Finally, when people are having fun in the sun, they can forget to reapply sunscreen. It’s good practice to set a reminder on your phone that you need to slather yourself in a fresh coat.