A little sun is still a good thing, but don’t overdo it. Your favorite over-the-counter sunscreens may soon be giving out stricter cautions about your time in the sun thanks to a recent FDA proposal which generates new rating systems for sunscreens.
Tighter standards were recently formulated for both testing and labeling sunscreens containing both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Based on a four-star rating system, the new standards will issue stars on over-the-counter sunscreen products indicating the degree of protection—one star will indicate the lowest degree of protection while four stars will denote the UVA highest protection. Besides the new star ratings, there will also be a revision in wording on sunscreen products. For example, rather than a sunscreen directing sunbathers to apply the sunscreen evenly, it will now say to apply liberally (or generously) over your body.
The emphasis won’t only be on sunscreens. What’s more, the new rules will also focus on sunbathers to not just rely on their sunscreens to protect them from skin cancer as well as other skin damage. Here are a few popular sunbathing myths that you may have believed.
“You’re more protected if you spend most of your time in the water”. —-For example, you may have bought into the myth that if you spend most of your time in the water you’re more protected from the sun’s rays than on the beach. But, the truth is water just does not shield your skin from the sun’s damaging rays as sun rays can reach a swimmer about one foot below the water’s surface.
“It’s a cloudy day, so you’re more protected”-––Another myth that’s believed is that clouds are a protective factor. But just as the water myth, the cloudy day theory just doesn’t hold water either. About 75% of the sun’s rays can pierce through clouds. Before I lived in south Florida, I used to believe that a cloudy day wasn’t as bad as a sunny one until I nursed some nasty sunburns after staying out longer than usual because I was deceived, thinking, after all, it’s a cloudy day…
It’s also important when you choose to sunbath. Strive to get in your sun bathing during hours when the sun’s rays aren’t so direct and harsh. The best time to sunbath is between 11 AM and 3 PM to avoid the sun’s direct rays. Just think of the shadow factor. In other words, the shorter the shadow, the more danger to your skin. Stand on a beach and look at your shadow. If your shadow is short, that means the sun is probably bearing down more directly on you (sometime before or after noon and early afternoon.) On the other hand, if your shadow is longer, you’re in less danger of the sun, as it’s either in the morning or late afternoon hours.
The new sunscreen ratings are not intended to keep you from going outdoors or sunbathing. After all, you don’t want to look like a “white loaf of bread” either. As with anything else you do involving any element of danger, you just need to find a healthy balance. So keep on sunbathing—enjoy your time at the beach. Just do it with caution and remember not to put all your hope in sunscreens alone.