By Dr. Kristen Flaharty
We all know that we should wear sunscreen. We’ve been told that ever since we were little kids and our parents shouted at us to rub some on before we headed outside. If we didn’t learn our lesson way back then, we probably learned it as an adult when we got a nasty sunburn. I’ve been there, and I’ve been a proponent of sunscreen since. So, sunscreen is something that we need to put on every day (especially in Florida), but do we really have any idea how it actually works? The average person, when confronted with a bottle of sunscreen labeled SPF something or other, probably isn’t quite sure what that means. What is the science behind sunscreen?
The History of Sunscreen
Sun-blocking substances have been used throughout history, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Zinc oxide paste was even used thousands of years ago to protect the skin from the sun, and we still use it in sunscreens today.
It wasn’t until the 1940s, during World War II, that modern-day sunscreens were worn, first by soldiers to protect them from the sun in the south Pacific. These early sunscreens were red, sticky and unpleasant to wear, but did protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation. It was a start. Soon after, one of the earliest sunscreens became commercially available, but was only SPF 2! The technology continued to be developed and improved throughout the 20th century, until the modern day.
What Is a Sunburn?
A sunburn is erythema (redness of the skin), and is generally a sign of inflammation, irritation or infection. But what exactly is it about the sun that causes this inflammation?
The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation. Most of this is absorbed in our atmosphere, but some of it gets through. These ultraviolet rays come in two forms: UVA and UVB. Each form has a slightly different wavelength, meaning that UVB rays can only shallowly penetrate the skin (and cause sunburns), while UVA rays go deeper, damaging beneath the skin, contributing to premature aging and wrinkling.
When UVB rays come in contact with the skin, your body increases blood flow to promote healing, and swelling occurs when cells move in to repair the damage. A single protein molecule in your skin, CXCL5, causes an immune response that causes the pain and burning sensation that anyone who has ever had a bad sunburn is familiar with.
After about a week, your body’s healing processes will almost be done working. Then the delightful peeling stage can begin. Eew.
How Does Sunscreen Help?
Sunscreen can prevent UVA and UVB rays from penetrating your skin. Depending on the type of sunscreen, it can scatter, absorb or reflect the ultraviolet rays. Inorganic compounds, like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, can physically reflect UV rays. These inorganic substances are natural and are found in our Ultra Natural Sunscreen. Organic chemicals in sunscreens absorb UV rays, preventing them from ever reaching your skin. When combined, these chemicals and compounds can provide a strong level of protection against the sun’s glare.
When you see SPF on the front of a bottle of sunscreen, it stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the number, the higher the protection. A sunscreen with a decent SPF will allow fewer photons from the sun to penetrate the skin. That said, this doesn’t mean that SPF 30 is twice as strong as SPF 15. SPF 15 blocks about 92% of the sun’s rays, while SPF 30 blocks about 96.7%, SPF 40 blocks 97.5%, and so on.
You need to be careful with some sunscreens, as many only protect against UVB rays. Although UVB rays are the ones that cause a superficial sunburn, the ones you REALLY need to be concerned about are UVA rays. These are the ones that penetrate deep into your skin and cause premature aging, wrinkles, loss of collagen and other cosmetically damaging results. Make sure, when buying a sunscreen, that the label says that it protects against both UVA/UVB radiation, usually labelled Broad Spectrum. Of course, you don’t need to worry about that with Azul’s line of sunscreens, we absolutely guarantee that our sunscreens will protect your skin from both, on even the harshest Florida day!
For the remainder of August, three of our most popular, specialized sunscreens will be on sale for 15% off (20% off if you buy all three). They include Mineral Defense (super lightweight), Ultra Natural (utilizing no artificial chemicals), and Satin Eclipse (our most advanced sunscreen/all-in-one sunscreen-make up primer and anti aging product). All of these sunscreens were developed by us at Trilogy Laboratories. Every product that comes out of Trilogy Laboratories has both my and Dr. Patrick Flaharty’s personal seal of approval, so you know that you will always get Azul-quality skincare.
The science of sunscreen is simple, once it is all laid out in front of you. Really though, you don’t need to know the exact scientific details to know that wearing sunscreen, especially in Florida, is an excellent idea. We have so many patients come into the spa so we can repair sun damage to their skin using a laser treatment such as Fraxel or IPL By wearing a high-quality sunscreen that has at least SPF 30, you can keep your skin healthy and youthful-looking for years to come. If you have any questions about skincare and the importance of sun protection, or if you wish to book an appointment so we can treat already-damaged skin, please can give us a call at (239) 415-7576 or visit our website at www.azulbeauty.com. Remember, enjoying the sun is a pleasure in Florida, but always wear protection!