Sunlight is a combination of various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. One of these types of radiation is known as ultraviolet radiation and it is the radiation from the sun that wreaks havoc upon the skin. Those deep, golden tans that you see the kids today sporting are actually signs of a leathery aging process that will make those healthy looking twentysomethings of today look like they’re fifty when they’re only forty. And that’s the best that these sun worshipers can look forward to; don’t even get started on melanoma and other cancers. There are chemicals that are placed into sunscreen that absorb ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen essentially works, therefore, by making sure that only a reduced proportion of radiation actually radiates the skin.
Sunscreen should be applied before your skin is exposed to this radiation. That is a gimme for most people, but what it less well known is that the initial layer of sunscreen that beachgoers apply before stretching out on a towel becomes pretty much as useless as a moderate at the Republican National Convention in only a couple of hours. What is important to keep in mind for those looking to bake their skin beneath the radiation of the sun is that even the highest SPF (more on that later) only acts to form a protective layer between your skin and the sun’s rays. In the future, perhaps, a new kind of sunscreen will be invented that actually changes the composition of the skin to give it a stronger resistance to the radiation, but for now all sunscreen can accomplish is to lessen the amount of radiation. For this reason, you must constantly apply a new coat of the stuff if you want your protection to last for more than an hour or two.
The SPF rating is a grading system for sunscreen that aligns directly with the amount of protection against radiation that the sunscreen offers. SPF actually stands for sun protection factor and the figures that you find on a bottle of sunscreen measures the amount of ultraviolet radiation that is absorbed. In other words, an SPF of 10 absorbs twice as much radiation as SPF of 5. Because the pigment of the skin is also a factor in how much radiation is absorbed, a proper balance should be formed. Those with darker skin don’t need as high an SPF rating as those with light skin. Fair skinned people should consider a sunscreen with an SPF between 10 and 15 while olive-skinned people can get by with an SPF of 8.
Something else to keep in mind is allergic reactions to sunscreen. It has been found that people who are allergic to drugs like procaine and benzocaine, as well as hair dyes, often develop a rash when applying sunscreen. For this reason, it is best to begin with a very small sample of lotion on your skin if you know you have these allergies.