How Does Sunscreen Work?

By Subodh / August 22, 2014

Here is a fact: global worming is for real! Alright that was pretty obvious but on a more serious level, it is a bit more important than most think actually. When you go out for sun baking on a winter afternoon and come back home with tan all over your body, sometimes you feel that it is cool. Tanning is not that bad or is it? Some people think that going out in the sun is okay and even if they don’t apply a sun screen because the worst they will get is the skin tan. However, it is not just about how the color tone of your skin will change after a few hours under the sun. The sun emits two types of lights – visible and invisible. The invisible light (which you can’t make out with your naked eyes) contains the Ultra Violet radiations. The exposure to these radiations for a prolonged period of time has far more serious consequences than you might know. Ultra Violet radiations can even lead to skin cancer. This is the reason why you need to apply the sun-block or sunscreen to make sure that UV exposure is minimized.

Sunscreen

How Does Sunscreen Really Work?

Sunscreens are created in such a way that they block the ultra violet radiations and prevent you from the exposure. When you apply the sunscreen it creates a layer over your skin which prevents your body from absorbing the radiations. The radiations are reflected away from your body. However, this is not the only way the sunscreen works. It may sound surprising to you but many sunscreens actually absorb the radiations. However, the radiations are converted into heat and thrown back into the atmosphere. There are different types of sunscreens in the market. There are many sunscreens which are mixed with other cosmetic ingredients to change the color tone of your skin. Some sunscreens are colorless and do not affect your skin tone.

What Does SPF Mean?

You may have been applying the sunscreen for a long time and may still not know what the SPF numbers mean. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it determines how much the sunscreen is preventing you from the UV radiation. The SPH number represented on the sunscreen is the amount of time the sunscreen will prevent you from the radiation. It also determines how much it will prevent you from the radiation. For instance, if you are buying a sunscreen labeled SPF 30, it will remain effective for 30 minutes in the sun. You may need to reapply after 30 minutes.

The SPF number also represents the amount of absorption of the UV rays. For example, SPF 30 will block around 97 percent of the UV rays and absorb only 3 percent. A sunscreen marked SPF 40 prevents 98 percent of the sun rays.

You Need To Reapply The Cream To Your Body If You Are Staying Longer In The Sun

There is a big misconception that when you are going out in the sun you need to apply the sunscreen only once. However, this is not true. As already mentioned, the sunscreen works only for a limited period of time depending upon the SPF number. Therefore, you need to reapply the cream to your skin every time you have spent the amount of time equal to the number printed on the tube. If you are carrying SPF 30 with you and you plan to spend 2 hours in the sun, you should apply the sunscreen at least 4 times to make it fully effective.

People With Darker Skin Tone Also Need Sunscreen

There is another misconception that people with darker skin tone do not need sunscreen as they do not get tanned. However, as already mentioned, sunscreen is not applied only to keep your skin from getting tanned. The UV rays are harmful in many other ways too. You can get skin burns and in the worst case skin cancer. Therefore, even if you have dark skin, you should always apply sunscreen when going out in the sun.

Apply Sunscreen Even If It Is Cloudy

The clouds only partially block the UV rays to earth. Therefore, even if the conditions are overcast make sure you apply sunscreen to prevent yourself from radiations and sunburn.

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