Sun Facts

What is sunscreen?

     Sunscreens are products that help prevent the sun’s harmful rays from reaching the skin’s surface. The sun emits harmful rays that reach the earth’s surface. These ultraviolet rays are divided into two types: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays are longer wavelength rays (320-400nm) that penetrate deep into the skins surface and are a major cause of skin aging and wrinkling. UVA rays can penetrate through glass windows and are the dominant tanning rays. It is now believed that UVA rays also contribute to the development of skin cancers. Whether exposure comes from outdoor sunlight or tanning parlor salons, UVA rays cause cumulative skin damage. UVB rays are shorter in wavelength (290-320nm) and are predominately the cause of skin reddening, sunburn and skin cancers. These rays cannot penetrate through glass windows. UVB rays also play a role in tanning and contribute to the development of fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles.

What is SPF?

     SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF indicates how long it would take for UVB rays to cause an individuals skin to redden when using a sunscreen compared to how long it would take to turn red without sunscreen. For example, if it takes 10 minutes of sun exposure to cause unprotected skin to turn red, applying a sunscreen with SPF 15 would take the skin 15 times longer (150 minutes) to turn red, about 2 1/2 hours. An SPF of 30 prevents 97% of UVB rays from reaching the skin’s surface.

What does “broad-spectrum” mean?

     Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays. When used as directed, these sunscreens will not only protect against sunburn, but also reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. Sunscreen alone cannot protect the skin from 100% of the sun’s harmful rays; therefore, it is recommended to seek shade when outdoors, especially between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, and wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and sunglasses when exposed to direct sunlight.

What does “water-resistant” mean?

     Water-resistant sunscreen is a product that will maintain its declared SPF protection for a minimum of 40 minutes of water immersion. Products that claim to be water-resistant must state on the front label how many minutes of protection (based on standard testing) a user can expect to get of the declared SPF level while swimming or sweating. Two times will be permitted on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

Sunscreen vs. Sunblock?

     Sunscreens can be classified into two categories depending on how they prevent the ultraviolet rays from reaching the skin. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb the ultraviolet rays and prevent them from penetrating the skin. Each ingredient in chemical sunscreens can only filter a portion of the ultraviolet spectrum so most chemical sunscreens contain more than one active ingredient. Most chemical sunscreens break down after several hours of exposure to sunlight and must therefore, be reapplied frequently. Chemical sunscreens are often colorless and leave an invisible film on the skin after application. Chemical sunscreens are more likely to elicit an allergic reaction than physical blocks.

     Physical sunscreens, most often referred to as sunblocks, are products that reflect and scatter the ultraviolet light. These products contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which physically block ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Physical sunblocks are considered broad-spectrum sunscreens, as they protect against UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunblocks can leave a whitish appearing film on the skin after application but they are much less likely to cause allergic reactions.

FDA Approved Sunscreen Ingredients:

Active Ingredient/UV Filter Name Ultraviolet Range Covered 
  UVA1: 340-400 nm
  UVA2: 320-340 nm
  UVB: 290-320 nm
Chemical Absorbers:  
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) UVB
Avobenzone  UVA1
Cinoxate  UVB
Dioxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)  UVA2
Enulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid)  UVB
Homosalate  UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate) UVA2
Octocrylene UVB
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate)  UVB
Octisalate (Octyl Salicylate)  UVB
Oxybenzone  UVB, UVA2
Padimate O  UVB
Sulisobenzone  UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate  UVB
   
Physical Filters:  
Titanium Dioxide  UVB, UVA2
Zinc Oxide  UVB, UVA2, UVA1