Let me be clear: sunscreen is helpful. Sunscreen is our friend, but the greatest strength of sunscreen, it turns out, is also its greatest weakness.
Sunscreen is used to prevent sunburns, wrinkles, and age spots, as well as decrease the risk of developing skin cancer. The goal of sunscreen is to prevent these conditions by protecting the skin against the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun.
There are two types of sunscreen; one reflects and the other absorbs UV rays. UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer, making proper application of sunscreen essential for prevention.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, the SPF is rated on how long it would take you to sunburn if you were not wearing sunscreen versus if you were wearing sunscreen. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UV rays, SPF 30 blocks about 97% and SPF 45 blocks about 98%, so the higher number does not always result in a proportionally higher protection. Stick with SPF 15 and reapply every 2 hours or when the sunscreen has worn off. Don’t forget more vulnerable spots such as the ears, lips, and tops of your feet!
Expiration dates and proper storage do matter with sunscreen. Over time the active ingredients can deteriorate and open containers can lead to contamination. Sunscreen should be stored in cool conditions, exposure to hot temperatures (like sitting in your car) can also reduce the decreased effectiveness of the sunscreen.
But the hidden danger of sunscreen is that it blocks sunlight, which is a significant source of Vitamin D for our bodies. Without that Vitamin D our systems could experience an imbalance that leads to loss of function, such as bone pain, muscle weakness, increased risks of cardiovascular disease and even cancer. In this case, supplements of Vitamin D can be an important aid in keeping balance.
For more information, please check out our in-depth articles on preventing and healing chronic diseases utilizing a functional medicine approach. We also encourage you to subscribe to our distribution list so you can receive the most current scientific information on healthy aging and prevention of chronic disease.
Wishing you good health!
Mike Woodley, R.Ph, FAARM, FMNM