According to a recent study, most people misinterpret sunscreen labels or cannot read them at all.
Everybody knows that during these hot summer days, it is essential that we wear sunscreen in order to keep our skin safe from sunburn and skin cancer. However, few people actually apply the much needed sunblock on a regular basis. Even fewer people apply it correctly and only a small amount are actually able to understand a sunscreen label.
What is the difference between a SPF of 30 and one of 50? What is a broad spectrum sunscreen and why do we need it? What does SPF mean anyway?
These are all questions that pass through most people’s minds upon looking at sunscreen products. However, they remain unanswered and fade pretty quickly, in favor of more attractive features like the wide variety of scents and textures and the application procedure. The spray-on products somehow always end up in the supermarket cart and last all throughout the summer.
A survey was recently conducted in order to better understand the choice process that stands behind people’s choice of sunscreen. A team of researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine from Chicago surveyed 114 subjects and then interpreted the results.
Firstly, 51% of the participants, so roughly half, did not know what the acronym SPF stands for, which means that only half of them knew that it stands for “Sun Protection Factor”. And you might think that this is a technicality and that the exact meaning of the acronym does not mean that they cannot make a correct choice.
However, it relays a pretty accurate pictures, as the Northwestern team of researched found out when they started digging deeper. It turns out that again, about half of the participants did not know the right properties that a product needed to have in order to protect them from sunburn, skin cancer and photoaging (this is the process that takes place when the skin gets an older look due to the exposure to the sun).
What seems to be the only thing that the majority of participants did manage to interpret correctly is the fact that a sunscreen with a higher SPF can offer better protection against sunburn and skin cancer. And while that might be somewhat of an encouraging thought, this only coves half of the problem.
Very few people knew that there are more types of ultraviolet rays and that there is a difference between their effects. While both types can lead to skin cancer, the ultraviolet A has a larger role in photoaging and ultraviolet B is responsible for sunburns. This is why it is very important that a sunscreen offers a broad spectrum protection, that means that it can protect against both type A and B.
“An SPF of 30 will filter about 97 percent of UVB rays. An SPF of 50 will filter about 98 percent of UVB rays,” explains Dr. Roopal Kundu, Dermatology Professor at Northwestern and study supervisor.
It is essential that people understand the meaning of the sunscreen label, as this is the first step that needs to be made in order to keep safe from the sun during summer days.
Then comes the correct application of the sunblock that has a few main guidelines. Firstly, all exposed skin must be protected with sunscreen, regardless of the localization. This includes everything from arms, legs and face, to toes, fingers, ears and the back of the neck.
Secondly, the skin on the face is more sensitive and therefore it requires special protection. This implies a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50.
Thirdly, sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, because after this period of time, its effect fade. Furthermore, if the skin gets wet, then the sunscreen needs to be reapplied in order to be protected.
It is extremely important that all of these matters become common knowledge and that people start using sunscreen on a daily basis, so that the immense skin cancer rates can be lowered significantly.
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