Keys. Wallet. Mask. Sunscreen. Wait, sunscreen?!
Coronavirus is limiting our contact with the outside world, but the sun still meets us bright and early every morning. For years, the last thing I would consider is sun damage. I am a 24 year-old, hazelnut, and curly haired lady that was taught that melanin was my best friend. I would go from hazelnut to dark chocolate, while my peers would cook like lobsters. Even with youth and melanin on my side, I am still a runner in the race for long-term skin damage. Sun safety is important for everyone, but it can look different for each individual.
What are the Fitzpatrick skin types?
The Fitzpatrick skin type system was developed in 1975 by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick. The system was created to classify skin type based on the amount of pigment or melanin your skin has and its reaction to the sun’s UV rays. This information is useful in finding the right foundation shade, figuring out which dress shirt brings out your tone, or just better protecting your skin from the sun. Be mindful that some burn, but others bronze.
Skin type I and II are similar in their reaction to the sun. These skin types consists of pale to fair skin tones, lacking or having little melanin. People in this category tend to burn and tan poorly.
Skin type III and IV range from fair to light brown tones. Individuals with type III sometimes burn and sometimes tan. Type IV burns minimally, but will tan easily.
Skin types V and VI react similar as well. Skin tones range from olive to the dark brown. This group has the most melanin will always tan.
Though, melanin various in each skin type, long-term damage can be similar among all skin types. People with less melanin are at an increased risk, but these conditions don’t discriminate. Long-term damage can be seen as:
- Actinic keratoses (AKs): Also known as photo-aging, these spots are seen as precancerous. Your skin textural will change, developing deep lines or a leather-looking appearance.
- Liver spots: also called sunspots are flat, oval shaped areas of increased color over spots most exposed to the sun like the back of hands, shoulders, and top of feet
- Solar elastosis: yellow, thick skin with bumps and wrinkles, is a feature of photo-aging.
- Sunburn: occurs in people with less melanin after prolonged sun exposure. Trauma causes cells to swell, becoming red, and painful. After about three days, skin will peel as your body rids itself of damaged cells. Sunburns accelerate the skin aging.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It determines how long your sunscreen will protect you from the sun’s UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, skin damage, and can contribute to cancer. UVA rays target the skin’s dermal layer affecting collagen and elastic tissues, and is the layer responsible for your tan. For example, you are baking cookies. You do not own an oven mitten and decide to take the baking sheet out of the oven bare handed. Your cookies are now on the floor because your body jerked to the excruciating pain and soon to-be blistering burns from the heat of the pan. SPF is your oven mitten. It will not protect against all UV radiation, but it will prevent immediate injury.
Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen that contains SPF 15 or SPF 30.
Consider a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against UVA ray as well.
The SPF scale shows that SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays and SPF 30 blocks 97%. High SPFs like SPF 100 are said to the highest amount of protection, blocking 99% of UVB rays; however, there is not a significant difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100 in protection.
Myths to be Dismissed
People with more melanin or dark skin tones do not need sunscreen.
- Let’s talk about the big M. MELANIN. Almost everyone has melanin, but some have more than others. Most would like to think it an impermeable body amour, but every hero has a weakness. When the sun’s UV rays touch your skin, more melanin is produced as a result of trauma to the skin. It’s a painless process, but over time is damaging.
People with darker skin tones do not have to worry about skin cancer.
- Cancer does not discriminate, but there are factors that can put you at risk. According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers have been linked to UV ray exposure from sunlight and some man-made sources of UV rays. Most of these cancers are found on areas with the most exposure to sunlight.
The sun does not affect me in the car
- Car windshields absorb nearly all UVA and UVB rays, as reported by MDedge, a source for medical news. Tinted or untinted car windows do not fully protect against UV rays with protection as low as fifty percent.
I can’t get sun damage on a cool, windy, or cloudy day.
- False! According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, up to eighty percent of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate light cloud cover. Temperature doesn’t determine UV radiation exposure. UV ray levels on cool or cloudy days can be similar to a warm, sunny day.
Sunscreen is not necessary when wearing cosmetics.
- You can look beauty and receive some protection from your beauty products. This is a wonderful combination, but sunscreen is still needed. Unless the product is labeled with an SPF30 or higher rating, it is recommended that sunscreen is applied under your makeup.
How do I protect myself?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the five W’s and H method to remember the appropriate usage of sunscreen.
Who: Everyone under the sun
What: Broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher; SPF 30 or higher for a day outdoors
When: Every day; 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours.
Where: All exposed skin
Why: Reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
How: One ounce (shot glass full) to entire body for each application
Sunscreen in addition to other measures will provide maximum protection. Additional practices include:
- Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses
- Limiting sun exposure and seeking shade when possible
- Wearing a wide-brim hat for face and forehead protection
- Wearing protective clothing for prolonged periods of exposure
- Monitoring any strange growths or lesions that appear on areas most exposed to the sunlight.
Including these measures will help you better prepare yourself and your family for daily sun safety. Whether you burn or bronze, sun safety must be a part of you daily routine. Youth or melanin alone will not protect against long-term damage from the sun’s UV radiation.
As you grab your mask to protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure to practice sun safety to protect your beauty and health.