How to Use Sunblocks - Critical Information Everyone Should Know!

Sunblocks are typically a chemical agent used to help prevent the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. There are two main types of ultraviolet radiation, which are UVA and UVB. These potent rays can damage your skin and may increase your risk of skin cancer.





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UVB rays causes sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are known to cause the aging of skin. UVA rays speed up the damaging effects of UVB rays, and are known to be a major cause of skin cancer. Because of the wide variety of sunblocks on the market today, they vary in their ability to protect your skin against both UVA and UVB damage.

Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or HIGHER do a pretty good job of protecting against UVB rays. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB ray penetration.

Who should use sunblocks?

What type should I use?

How much to use and how often should I apply it?

Are sunscreens really safe to use?

How SPF Works

If it takes 20 minutes for unprotected skin to start turning red. If you're using an SPF 15 sunscreen, it theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer or (20x15 divided by 60) about five hours.

Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages:

  • SPF 15 blocks approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 blocks 97 percent; and
  • SPF 50 blocks 99 percent.

    They may seem like very small differences, but if you have fair or sensitive skin, or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages can make a huge difference. However, no sunscreen can block all UV rays.

    But there are problems with the SPF model; First, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication.

    Second, 'reddening' of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone so it's NOT a credible way to tell if you're getting UVA damage. Notably, plenty of sun damage can occur without getting sunburned.

    Who Should Use Sunblocks?

    Anyone over the age of six months should use a sunscreen, especially in the spring and summer when sun's rays are highest in the sky and most potent. Even those who work inside are exposed to ultraviolet radiation for brief periods throughout the day. Most windows do not protect you from UV rays.

    Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun. Shade and protective clothing are the best ways to protect infants from the sun.

    Sunburned skin is by far the biggest threat!

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    What Type Should I Use?

    The answer depends on how much sun exposure you have. In all cases, a broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

    Many moisturizers and foundations have a built in sunscreen (usually SPF 15 or greater) which may be enough for everyday activities if you work inside.

    However, if you work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need water-resistant or higher SPF sunblocks that have more staying power. The ‘water resistant’ and ‘sport formula’ types are also good for hot days or sports because they're less likely to drip into your eyes, which is extremely unpleasant and painful!

    These sunscreens may not be as good for everyday wear. They don’t blend well with makeup, are stickier, and may need to be reapplied every two hours, especially if you sweat a lot.

    Many of the sunscreens available in the US today combine several different active chemicals in order to provide broad-spectrum protection.

    At least three active chemical ingredients are used in most sunscreens. These generally include PABA derivatives, which may include:

  • Salicylates, and/or cinnamates (octylmethoxycinnamate and cinoxate) for UVB absorption;

  • Benzophenones (such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone) for shorter-wavelength UVA protection; and

  • Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Ecamsule (Mexoryl), Titanium Dioxide, or Zinc Oxide for the rest of the UVA spectrum.

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    How Much to Use and How Often to Apply?

    To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply approximately one full ounce for your entire body.

    Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means lowers the actual SPF.

    During a long day at the beach, you should use around 1/4 to 1/2 of an 8 ounce bottle.

    Sunblocks should be applied at least 30 minutes or more before going out into the sun. This allows the ingredients to penetrate the skin and bind.

    There are a MILLION + reasons to protect your skin. They are called ‘the rays of the sun’! The sun’s rays can do a lot of damage if you’re not careful! To conserve your precious skin, avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day. Studies prove that its during this time that most damage is done.

    If you're worried about aging your skin, look for Anthelios and Ombrelle. Anthelios contains Anthelios L, which is a total UVA sunblock. Ombrelle, which contains Parsol 1789, is also a total UVA sunblock.

    People always get UVA and UVB confused.

    An easy way to remember it is that:

  • UVA is for Aging,
  • UVB is for Burning.

    (Difference between ‘A’ and ‘B’)

    suntan skin image

    Remember too, that some sun exposure without protection is good for your health! Your body needs sun exposure to create sufficient amounts of vitamin D! Just avoid getting burned and build up to a great tan!

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    Are Sunblocks Safe?

    Sunscreens contain MANY chemicals that can be absorbed into your skin and then into your bloodstream. These products typically include a combination of some or all of these ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens (a much safer option) use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A few products combine zinc oxide that contain chemical filters. You can get EWG's guide to sunscreens here.

    Whether or not you use one is solely up to you. Moderation should be key in all that you do, but is especially important when it comes to chemical exposure.

    *Note: - Remember, SPF has NOT been proven to prevent skin cancer. Additionally, when you wear SPF, it blocks absorption of vitamin D. Deficiencies could actually lead to some forms of cancer by blocking absorption.

    You may also consider taking beta carotene supplements for it's natural sun-blocking ability. Or, you can learn how to make your own all-natural sun cream here.


    Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.



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    Sunburned Skin Treatment and Prevention

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    Resources

    The Trouble with Sunscreen

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