Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is Sunscreen a Summer-Only Necessity?

November 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 


Sunscreen story

You wouldn’t leave your house without shoes in December, so why head out without sunscreen? Shoes are important to keep your feet from suffering frostbite, and sunscreen prevents your skin from absorbing sun radiation that leads to premature aging and raises the risk of life-threatening conditions, including melanoma and other skin cancers.

Though many stores stop promoting sunscreen, and you bare little skin in the winter, the sun is still sending potentially harmful rays down to Earth. Sun damage to skin comes from both UVA and UVB rays, and though the angle of the winter sun makes its rays less intense than in summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that UVA radiation levels are “more constant than UVB, reaching the Earth’s surface without variations due to the time of day or year.”

Raw elementsBrian A. Guadagno, President/Founder of Raw Elements, www.rawelementsusa.com, echoes the EPA advisory. “UVA radiation levels from the sun actually do not change during different times of the year,” says Guadagno. “They are just as strong in the winter as they are in the summer, so broad spectrum sunscreen is important to wear year-round on exposed skin.”

Reading a sunscreen’s label is crucial to finding proper winter sun protection, Guadagno cautions. Along with seeking organic and natural ingredients that both nourish and protect, as his Raw Elements sunscreens do, he urges consumers to buy sunscreens labeled broad spectrum, as the term means “the product is offering balanced UVA protection relative to the SPF number, which only refers to the UVB protection.” He recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 for wintertime.Liliana Passaretta and Brian A. Guadagno, Raw Elements

Plenty of products on the shelves claim to pack SPF protection, but are all equally effective? Probably not, according to Anthony Clarke, the owner of Brooklyn-based EXTRASHADE, a photostabilized sunscreen free of potential irritants to darker complexions (www.extrashade.com). Clarke explains that, “moisturizers with SPFs are effective, but you still have to be cognizant if they provide full spectrum protection.” He also stresses the significance of seeking out a daily broad spectrum sunscreen, noting, “Most traditional sunscreens solely concentrate on UVB protection (the SPF rating), so it would be wise to look for products that offer more complete sun protection, providing defense from both UVB and UVA, the harmful aging rays.”

Slapping on sunscreen is an extra grooming step that some busy people skip. They’ll rationalize the omission by explaining that they are barely outside in winter except when commuting, or that it’s really cold and cloudy. However, being in a car offers no shelter — UVA rays penetrate glass. Outside air temperature also means very little when it comes to sun risk, and hazy or cloudy skies make only a negligible difference (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Scattered clouds allow 89 percent of UV rays to reach the surface”). Even staying in the shade isn’t adequate, as surfaces such as snow, sand, pavement, and water intensify and reflect rays. Adds Guadagno, “The rays scatter off snow, water, sand, and even the road when one is driving in the car, back toward the skin.”


Then there’s the myth that people of color don’t need sunscreen in the summer, let alone the winter. EXTRASHADE’s Clarke knows that this is a fallacy, and he warns, “Anyone who spends time outdoors should use a sunscreen. The biggest misconception in the multi-cultural community probably comes from the cultural belief — or from growing up believing— that dark skin is naturally protected, does not get sunburned, and is immune from skin cancer, so therefore sunscreen or sun protection in general is not needed.

“Skin cancer might not be top of mind as a significant health threat, but the misconception among people of color is a problem and poses a serious health risk because of the lack of education,” continues Clarke. “That is one reason people of color are diagnosed at later stages, meaning that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal. A broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 is needed for any skin tone.”

It’s hard to feel well while looking older than one’s age; unprotected skin ultimately broadcasts its neglect, says Clarke. “Much of the skin changes we attribute to growing older are caused by the sun’s UV rays. Without protection from the sun’s rays, just a few minutes of exposure each day over the years can cause noticeable changes to the skin such as freckles, age spots, rough and leathery skin, fine wrinkles, and a blotchy complexion, among other things.”

While so many of us greet every glimpse of wintertime sun with glee, it’s important to recall that the rays are laden with risks to our health and our healthy glows. That’s why health care professionals consistently offer the same, simple advice as Raw Elements’ Guadagno: “Keep your face protected while outdoors year round by maintaining a consistent sunscreen practice.”

By Lita Smith-Mines

webPlus_web_green1 Find out more about the UV index

Visit http://www2.epa.gov/sunwise/uv-index  for the UV Index in your area.

Smartskincare.com offers this explanation of the ratings:

UV Index 0-2: Low danger to the average person. Wear sunglasses; use sunscreen if there is snow on the ground, which reflects UV radiation, or if you have particularly fair skin.

UV Index 3-5: Moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with clothing and a hat, and seek shade around midday when the sun is most intense.

UV Index 6-7: High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen having SPF 15 or higher, cover the body with sun protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, and reduce time in the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon (roughly 11:00 am to 4:00 pm during summer in zones that observe daylight saving time).

UV Index 8-10: Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Same precautions as above, but take extra care — unprotected skin can burn quickly.

UV Index 11 or higher: Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take all precautions, including the following: wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with a long-sleeve shirt and pants, wear a broad hat, and avoid the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon.

Keep in mind that UV index data, their interpretations and EPA recommendations have important limitations. In particular, the UV index is weighted more towards UVB frequencies and tends to underestimate UVA exposure. In other words, the UV index is more useful in assessing the risk of sunburn than long-term damage to the dermis and skin matrix that leads to wrinkles. In fact, low values of the UV index may, in certain situations, underestimate the impact of sun exposure on skin aging. Therefore, if you are concerned with skin aging you may want to be even more proactive than the EPA guidelines recommend.



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