The importance of using facial sunscreen all year round

Are you among the people who only use face sunscreen in summer? Then it’s time for you to start making it the rest of the year! Although it is true that it is in this season when the radiation is more intense, the face is also exposed to sunlight during spring, autumn and winter, which is why it is important to always protect it. Not doing so can have consequences for the health of your skin, as we are going to explain in this article. 

What is the skin? 

The skin is much more than the layer that covers our entire body: it is an organ -the largest of the human being- mainly in charge of protecting us from all external agents that may be harmful to us, such as chemical elements, radiation, infections, etc.

In addition to this important protective function, the skin regulates body temperature and water loss, allows the synthesis of vitamin D and gives us the sense of touch. 

As you can see, the skin plays important roles in our body, which is why it is essential to take care of it to avoid the development of skin disorders such as sensitive skin, among others, and to use daily sunscreen for the face and body on occasions when the skin we expose to the sun Sunscreen is applied to the outermost layer of the skin, whose structure we will see in the next section. 

The three layers of the skin 

  • Epidermis : outer layer of the skin, composed mainly of keratinocytes. It is in a perpetual process of desquamation and regeneration. The epidermis is in charge of functioning as a protective barrier against harmful external agents and preventing the loss of fluids from our body.
  • Dermis : intermediate layer, made up largely of collagen and elastin, two components that play a fundamental role in the characteristic elasticity of the skin.
  • Hypodermis : Innermost layer of the skin. It stores fat that protects the body from external bruises and helps regulate body temperature. 

What type of skin do you have based on sensitivity to the sun? 

Do you know what your skin type makes you more or less susceptible to the effects of the sun or skin cancer ?

Skin types, depending on their tone, are included in six groups or phototypes, depending on their tone: the palest (I and II) have a higher risk of skin cancer and are more photosensitive, while the more dark (V and VI) this is less, which does not mean that they should not be protected. 

Skin type I

If you never tan and it is very common for you to get sunburned, it is likely that your skin is of this type. Use a good sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 50 or full, as your skin is more vulnerable to melanoma and other types of skin cancer. What’s more, the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to avoid it by always seeking shade, especially during the hours of maximum ultraviolet radiation (between 12 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon). You should also take special care to do dermatological check-ups at least once a year and pay attention to any suspicious moles or spots.

Skin type II

It’s slightly more pigmented skin than Type I, but it’s also common to get sunburned, and rarely tans. Therefore, if you belong to this group, the advice is the same as in the previous case, you should use high SPF facial and body sunscreens and avoid the sun during the hours of most radiation. In this way you will help prevent the development of skin cancer. 

Skin type III

If you have this type of skin you tan gradually, but sometimes you also get sunburned. Even if your skin type is somewhat more resistant to radiation , it is still susceptible to damage, so you should protect yourself in the same way to prevent the development of skin cancer. 

Skin type IV

If your skin belongs to this group, you will tan easily and you will not burn regularly. However, you are not free of risk: use facial and body sunscreen with medium protection and avoid the sun during the hours of greatest radiation . In the same way as in the previous cases, pay attention to suspicious spots on your skin and perform dermatological check-ups once a year. 

Skin type V

This skin type tans easily and almost never burns. If this is your case, do not stop using sun protection, since you can prevent photoaging caused by type A UV rays. It is also important to carry out annual check-ups since this type of skin can develop acral lentiginous melanoma, which usually appears in areas of the body not exposed to the sun, and its detection is usually late. 

skin type VI

Skin phototype VI corresponds to people with very dark skin. Does this mean that they are not at risk of developing skin cancer? Unfortunately not. As we have just mentioned, there are skin cancers that are more frequent in dark skin, so it is always important to follow the basic recommendations like the ones we see in this infographic. The Skin Cancer Foundation.

The importance of facial sunscreen 

The skin of the face is an indicator of our state of health and, in addition, its appearance can have an influence on our self-esteem, since the face is the most visible and exposed part of our body. This also makes it the most prone to attacks from external agents, which is why we have to put special effort into its care. It is very important to use facial sunscreen every day, since facial skin is almost continuously exposed to the sun and direct UV rays. In addition, the thickness of the skin in this area of ​​the body is thinner, which contributes to making it more fragile and vulnerable to solar radiation. 

What is solar radiation?

Solar radiation is the set of radiation emitted by the sun, among which are ultraviolet (UV) and infrared rays:

  • UV radiation: our skin faces two types of radiation: 
  • UVA: they have a wavelength between 320 and 400 nm and penetrate the deepest layers of the skin. They trigger the processes of allergies and solar reactions and, in the long term, photoaging.  
  • UVB: its wavelength is between 290 and 320 nm and they are responsible for the development of redness and skin burns, also known as solar erythema.
  • Infrared radiation:  these can enhance the negative effects of UVB and UVA radiation on our skin. Its wavelength is above 760 nm. 

What consequences does excess sun have on the skin?  

When we expose ourselves to the sun in a controlled way, for short periods when radiation is not very high, the sun has beneficial effects such as: 

  • Stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D: it is necessary to fix calcium to the bones, thus preventing rickets and osteoporosis
  • Stimulates the production of melanin: it is the pigment that gives us the tanned appearance of the skin and helps protect it from UV radiation
  • Produces vasodilation : therefore it reduces blood pressure 
  • Promotes peripheral blood circulation
  • Improves the symptoms of some skin diseases, such as psoriasis, acne or vitiligo, among others. 
  • Mood: sunlight improves mood 

Although these effects are positive, when sun exposure is excessive, the consequences become negative. As we have seen, UV rays can be A or B (UVA and UVB) , and it is necessary to protect ourselves from both types, since while the former are involved in skin aging, the latter are responsible for burns caused by Sun.

According to a study by the AECC (Spanish Association Against Cancer), cases of melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer, increase by 10% each year, which is why they recommend promoting sun protection habits and making a call to the importance of becoming aware of the consequences that excessive sun can have on our health. And it is that, many people still continue to expose themselves to the sun in an inadvisable way. For example, according to the study, 42% of people sunbathe on the beach between 12 noon and 4 pm, the stretch in which radiation is most dangerous. 

In addition, they emphasize the importance of protecting the little ones from the sun, and educating them about the risk that this can pose, since most cases of skin cancer are the result of bad habits of sun exposure in childhood and youth. 

What are Sunscreens? 

Today we can find different types of products that protect us from the sun , which are classified according to the type of protection. In this sense we can find everything from creams to clothing with protection against solar radiation. 

Dermatological sunscreens are products, usually in cream or spray format, that are applied to the skin to prevent UV radiation from damaging it . Within dermatological sunscreens, there are inorganic filters that reflect light, preventing rays from penetrating (they require frequent reapplication and give a mask appearance) or organic filters that work by absorbing ultraviolet radiation, so that they capture energy and transformed to make it harmless to the skin (they are the most used). 

As we say, radiation is responsible for burns (UVB), photoaging (UVA) and increases the risk of skin cancer. Facial and body sunscreens are classified based on the type of UV radiation they protect from , as well as their SPF (sun protection factor).

What is SPF? 

The FPS refers to the degree of blocking of the protector against UVB radiation. The protection number multiplies the time the skin spends in the sun without it suffering damage from UVB radiation. For example, skin that without any type of protection can spend 15 minutes in the sun without reddening, can remain 10 times longer (150 minutes) if you use SPF 10, 15 times longer (225 minutes) if it is SPF 15 or 20. times more (300 minutes) if it is an SPF 20. 

The recommendations are to use a facial or body sunscreen with at least an SPF of between 15 or 30, since it is estimated that with an SPF of 15 it protects us against approximately 93% of UVB radiation and an SPF of 30 of 96%.

Misconceptions About Sunscreens

There are many erroneous beliefs widespread among a large part of the population about the use of sunscreens, which is why we want to deny the best known: 

“Sunscreen can cause vitamin D deficiency”

Although it is true that there is controversy regarding this issue, recent studies indicate that sunscreens do not inhibit the synthesis of vitamin D. 

“No need to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy”

It is logical that, if you do not see the sun, you think that you do not have to protect your skin. However, this idea is wrong, because even if it is cloudy, up to 40% of the UV radiation reaches the earth. So now you know, use face and body sunscreen come shine, rain or snow!

“Protect yourself when you are an adult is not effective if it has not been done in childhood”

Not at all, regardless of the sun exposure you have had in childhood and youth, it is very important to protect yourself from the sun in adulthood. 

Recommendations for choosing your facial sunscreen 

When choosing sunscreen you should consider several things: 

  • The FPS refers to the blocking of UVB radiation (burns), so it is important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also protects us from UVA radiation (photoaging).
  • The time a person can stay in the sun without burning varies depending on skin phototype and radiation index.
  • You must take into account the age of the person to whom it is going to be applied, and opt for the most suitable one for her, since there are special protectors for children or for mature skin.
  • The type of use you are going to give it: is it for daily use? For the beach or the pool? For the snow or the mountains? In either case, you will find facial and body sunscreens specifically designed for each activity. 
  • To be effective, regardless of SPF, face and body sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure and reapplied every two hours while in the sun.

Finally, we remind you that, in addition to using sunscreen, it is very important that you avoid risky behaviors, such as prolonged exposure to the sun or during the most intense hours, and that, in case of any mole or spot that makes you suspicious, go to your doctor. 

Many times we are not aware of the risk that exposure to the sun entails, which is why the AECC makes this test available to us, which allows us to assess whether we are protecting ourselves well from the sun in our day-to-day lives. 

With this article, we hope we have helped you become aware that using facial sunscreen all year round is essential, as well as the importance of having certain habits focused on the prevention of skin cancer and other diseases. 

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