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Sunscreen Protects Both Currently, In the Future

It’s a warm, beautiful sunny day in Raleigh, so you decide to take a walk at Pullen Park.  You grab your phone and earbuds, throw on a tank top and head out the door. However, you are forgetting one very important thing: sunscreen.  

Although it is something that is often overlooked, sunscreen is essential when it comes to skin health.  It is something that should be worn by people of all ages and all skin tones. Whether it be sunny or cloudy, sunscreen is a crucial factor in the prevention of skin cancer and other problems, such as wrinkles, cataracts and discoloration.

The main purpose of sunscreen is to protect your body from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  The lotion is composed of inorganic compounds that reflect UV rays away from the skin. Additionally, sunscreen contains organic compounds that absorb UV rays through chemical bonds.

All sunscreens contain a sun protection factor (SPF) that is a degree of how much the lotion will protect from a certain type of ultraviolet radiation called UVB rays, which is one of the main causes of skin cancer and sunburns.  There are also UVA rays, which are not protected by an SPF. Skin damage from UVA rays can be prevented by using a sunscreen with broad spectrum denotation.

Dr. Darrell Rigel asserts the fact that everyone needs to apply sunscreen, even if one has a tan or is of an ethnicity of darker complexion.  He says that tanned skin is actually a body’s acknowledgement of damage from UV exposure, as they UV rays cause skin to produce more melanin which therefore gives it a darker color.

The Cleveland Clinic advises applying sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF no less than twenty minutes before heading outdoors.  In order for one’s whole body to be protected, enough sunscreen must be applied to fill a shot glass and should be reapplied every two hours.

Unfortunately, there are many myths about sunscreen use that prevent many from using it.  Those who have dark skin may believe that a tan alone will provide enough protection; however, Dr. Steve Rotter says that this only provides enough coverage as sunscreen with an SPF of 4.  

A large number of people neglect to put on sunscreen in cloudy weather and during hours where it is rumored that the sun is not harmful.  According to Dr. Doris Day, clouds only block 20 percent of UV rays, meaning that there is still plenty of damage the sun can do. The claim that the sun is not dangerous during the early morning and late afternoon holds true for UVB rays, but UVA rays are present all day.   

Many people claim that using sunscreen will also reduce the amount of vitamin D they will receive from the rays.  However, Dr. Ronnie Klein says that having tan does not necessarily mean that one has a sufficient amount of vitamin D.  Additionally, he adds that it would be more beneficial to receive more vitamin D from a change in diet and supplements.

Failing to wear sunscreen can lead to skin damage, which includes sunburns, skin cancer, cataracts and wrinkles.  Sunburns are caused by a certain RNA molecule being damaged by UVB rays, which then enacts a chemical that increases blood flow and white blood cells to the area, causinging redness and pain.

While sunburns are brought on by damage to RNA, skin cancer is caused by UVB damage to DNA structure.  The UVB rays mutate the DNA, which can lead to cancer due to an uncontrollable growth of cells. UVA rays cause the proteins in the cells of an eye lens to bundle together, which fogs up one’s vision and ultimately leads to cataracts.  Additionally, UVA rays attack enable the functioning of enzymes that break down collagen, which leads to the formation of wrinkles.

Although most summer activities revolve around being in the sun, it is important that you take the time to protect yourself with sunscreen before heading outdoors.  It may seem tedious, but your body will thank you in the future!


10 Sunscreen Myths You Believe That Will Make Dermatologists Cringe (Reader’s Digest)

Sun Protection Information and More (Cleveland Clinic)

What Happens When You Get a Sunburn? (Scientific American)