Now that summer is coming to an end, you might think that you can tuck away your swimsuit and your sunscreen until next year. After all, the pools are closed and the beaches are empty, so why is SPF important?
The truth is that keeping up a year-round SPF routine for your skin is very important because the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays continue to shine—and cause skin damage—throughout the year.
What Is SPF?
The sun produces two kinds of ultraviolet rays that can harm your skin: UVB rays, which cause sunburns and play a part in the development of skin cancer; and UVA rays, which play a role in tanning but also penetrate deeper into the skin to cause premature aging and skin cancers.
Sunscreen and other products with SPF are crucial for preventing skin damage because they protect you from UV rays. So what is SPF? It stands for sun protection factor, and it’s an indicator of how much protection a product can give you from the sun’s UVB rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Think of it like this: However long it would take your skin to burn without any sun protection, your sunscreen protects you by multiplying that length of time by its SPF number. So if you’re wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen, it would take you approximately thirty times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.
You should make sure any sunscreen you wear has broad-spectrum sun protection, which means it can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Also, look for broad-spectrum sunscreen protection that’s graded at SPF 30 or higher, and choose a sunscreen that’s water-resistant. If you’re going to be outside for most of the day and/or sweating sunscreen off, make sure you reapply the SPF lotion every few hours.
Why Is SPF Important after Summer?
Even if it’s an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. You can also experience sun damage from UV rays on snowy and rainy days. That’s why you should apply sunscreen to your face, hands, and any exposed areas every morning.
It’s also possible to get sun damage through a window. If you drive a lot, you might notice more sun damage on your left arm or hand, or the left side of your face; you might also see more wrinkles, sagging, brown age spots, and leathery skin on that side. That could be because of sun damage that occurs while you’re driving, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Automotive glass effectively blocks UVB rays, but it doesn’t block out UVA rays. Most windshields are specially treated to block UVA rays, but side windows usually are not—so you’re still susceptible to UVA rays coming in through any glass other than your windshield.
Desk jockeys should heed this advice, too. If your desk is next to a glass window, you’re an open target for UVA rays. UVA damage is cumulative, and research has proven that skin exposed to sunlight through window glass can still lead to skin damage over time, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Keep a bottle of sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 on hand, and reapply as needed throughout the day.
Find SPF in Other Sources
Sunscreen is one of the first products many of us think of when we’re looking for sun protection, but there’s plenty of SPF clothing on the market that can help protect you from sun damage as well. Look for sun protection clothing that has a sun-certified ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, clothing label. You can find shirts, shorts, pants, and hats with this protection. Put these items on before going outside so that you can better protect your skin while enjoying any outdoor activities.
What to Do if Your Skin Is Already Damaged
If you ran to the mirror to look at the skin on the left side of your face while reading this article, examined your hands for sunspots, or worried about all that sun damage that’s been done while looking out your office window, take a deep breath and relax. Some sun damage is permanent, says Harvard Health Publishing, but there are prescription and nonprescription remedies and skin-resurfacing treatments that may improve the skin’s appearance.
The first step toward preventing further damage or aging from the sun is to start incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine immediately. Make sure you’re putting on some SPF lotion in the morning, keep a bottle of sunscreen in your car and your desk at work, and incorporate sun-protection clothing into your wardrobe for outdoor activities.
You might also want to consider a skin treatment, such as TempSure™ Envi. This skin care treatment uses radiofrequency technology to refresh your look while potentially tightening* your skin by triggering a natural response to create new collagen, which should leave your skin younger-looking. It helps minimize the signs of wrinkles and facial lines while delivering consistent treatments each time.
Don’t give UVA and UVB rays any more chances to harm to your skin. Keep up with these tips for a great SPF routine. Your skin will thank you, and your dermatologist will applaud you.
*Through soft tissue coagulation.