Although the sun is the source of all life, the role of ultraviolet (UV) rays in skin cancers and skin aging is well known. UV rays cause many signs of aging such as thinning, dryness, pigmentation, wrinkling, sagging of the skin, increase in capillary vessels, and prominence of pores over time. It can also cause various allergic rashes. However, the greatest risk of course is the development of skin cancers. The most common and unfortunately the fastest increasing cancer type in the world is skin cancer. Skin cancers have greatly increased in the last 50 years as a result of the thinning of the ozone layer, the lack of awareness of sun protection, and the increased desire to develop a tan.
The sun rays are mainly divided into three groups: ultraviolet (UV), visible light and infrared rays. The UV rays that are largely responsible for the effects on the body. While 95% of the UV radiation reaching the earth is UVA (320-400 nm) rays with a long wavelength, 5% are short-wave UVB (290-320 nm) rays. In general, UVA rays play a role in aging and spot development and UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. Both UVA and UVB but mainly UVB rays play a role in skin cancer development. In recent years, however, visible light and infrared rays have also been shown to play a role in hyperpigmentation and skin aging.
There is a wide range of sunscreen products available at present. Sunscreens are produced through the use of physical and chemical filters, and provide UVA and/or UVB protection according to the characteristics of these filters. However, the physical filters also have a protective function against visible light and infrared rays. We can therefore say that combined products containing physical filters have a broader spectrum of protection from sunlight.
We could summarize the important points of protection from sun rays as follows:
- Be careful to avoid the sun as much as possible between 11:00 and 15:00 during the summer months as this is the period when the sun rays arrive most directly.
- Wear light colored and woven clothes and a wide-brimmed hat while exposed to the sun, and do not neglect to use sunglasses.
- Choose a sun protection that contains a minimum protection factor of 30 and is dermatologically tested and that provides both UVA and UVB protection! If your skin type is very light, or if you are a blonde or redhead, it is good to prefer a product containing a protection factor of 50. If you have hyperpigmented skin, choose combined products that also include a physical filter.
- If you have accompanying skin disease, use more specific products! For example using sunscreen developed for dry skin on a skin with acne increases acne severity. Sunscreens appropriate for all skins have now been developed; there are specific sunscreens for dry, oily, mixed type, sensitive, and photoallergic skins and skin with spots. Thus, the structure of the skin is regulated while providing protection.
- Apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out! If you want to put on make-up, you can do this after you apply your sunscreen.
- The amount and frequency of sunscreen use is also very important for effective sun protection. The most common error in using sun protection products are using small quantities and infrequently. The most common recommendation regarding the use of the right amount of products is the teaspoon model of the American Academy of Dermatology. Accordingly, 1 teaspoon cream is applied to the face and neck region; 1 to each arm; 2 to the front and rear body and about 2 teaspoons to each leg.
- Another important issue for effective sun protection is the frequency of sunscreen use. Renew your sunscreen every 2 hours at the beach and every 4 hours in daily life. In case of contact with water, apply your sunscreen again without taking these durations into account.
- Do not rely on high SPF values to extend the duration you stay under the sun.
- Prefer shady places! However, do not forget that being in the shade only decreases UV rays by 50%. So, even if you are in the shade, do not neglect to use sunscreen.
- Choose physical sun protection with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for pregnant women and infants older than 6 months.
- Use your sun protection not only in summer but throughout the year in sun-exposed areas.