Protecting Against Sun Damage
Protecting skin from the sun is one of the most important things a woman can do to keep herself and her skin healthy.
Among young women in the United States, there has been a significant increase in the two most common non-melanoma cancers: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. More recently, the same appears to be true for melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.
There are two main types of UV radiation: UVB and UVA. UVB radiation is responsible for sunburn and plays a major role in causing skin cancer. It affects only the outer layer of the skin. UVA, while less intense than UVB, is 30 to 50 times more prevalent than UVB and penetrates to deeper layers of the skin. UVA is the dominant tanning ray and is closely linked to skin aging. It also damages skin DNA and causes skin cancer.
Traditionally, sunscreen products have been developed to prevent sunburns by blocking UVB rays. More and more, however, sunscreens are adding “broad spectrum” protection against both UVB and UVA radiation.
It is important for all women to make sunscreen a part of their daily skin care routine. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection.
In addition to the use of sunscreen, The Skin Cancer Foundation emphasizes the following sun safety behaviors. Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m—the most hazardous times for UV exposure in the continental United States. Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths. (Women age 29 or younger have a 75 percent increased risk of skin cancer if they’ve used a tanning booth.) Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UVblocking sunglasses. Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam.
In addition to sunscreen, many cosmetics have been designed to offer women excellent day-to-day sun protection. After cleansing her face in the morning, a woman should apply a “broad spectrum” moisturizer with an SPF of 15 to her face, ears, neck, and upper chest. These areas are susceptible to photoaging, the damage done to the skin from lifetime exposure to UV radiation. The delicate skin around a woman’s eyes needs protection as well, so it is important for her to use an eye cream that contains SPF.
When choosing a foundation, women should look for one with an SPF rating between 8 and 15. While this may seem like overkill, two applications of cosmetics containing sunscreen will increase their chances of getting good protection. Women can top off their foundation with powder. In addition to providing a certain amount of protection on their own, talc particles help sunscreen and moisturizer stay put throughout the day.
Because lips have almost no melanin, it is particularly important to protect them. A colorless lip balm or an opaque lipstick with an SPF rating of 15 is ideal for lip protection. Women should avoid wearing high-gloss lipsticks with little pigmentation. These direct damaging UV rays to a vulnerable area.