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How to choose sunscreen

The best sun protection method is to avoid staying in the sun for longer periods, especially during the times of intensive sunlight, i.e. between 11.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. If you are unable to avoid being in the sun, you should use other sun protection methods. Sunscreen alone is not enough. Special sun protection clothing (which protects both dry and wet skin), wide-brimmed headgear and sunglasses with ultraviolet light protection used in combination with sunscreens help to protect us from the sun significantly better.

The ultraviolet radiation which reaches the Earth’s surface constitutes UVA and UVB wavelengths. UVA is long-wave radiation which penetrates the skin deeper and damages elastin and collagen fibres, causing photoaging (wrinkles) but also skin cancer. UVB has a shorter wavelength and leads to sunburn, increase in epidermal thickness and skin cancer. In the summer, 95% of ultraviolet radiation is UVA and 5% UVB, in the winter the percentage of UVA is even higher – 98%.

SPF (sun protection factor) shows the sunscreen’s ability to protect the skin from sunburn. A sun cream labelled only with SPF protects only from UVB rays. The higher the sun protection factor, the more time it takes for sunburn to develop, which is why people spend more time in the sun and leave themselves unprotected against the damaging effect of UVA. We recommend using sun protection creams labelled Broad Spectrum SPF, which shows that the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA radiation. Broad Spectrum SPF 30–50 sunscreens also reduce photoaging of the skin if used in sufficient quantities (people often use sunscreen in much smaller amounts than recommended) and combined with other sun protection methods. Do not forget your lips and ears! We also recommend that you choose sunscreens which contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide (sun creams intended for children). These sunscreens provide good physical protection against UVA and UVB radiation; however, they may leave a white layer on the skin. It is worth remembering that not one sunscreen product can protect completely against ultraviolet light!

Instead of sun cream, children should wear special UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing. Children and minors should be protected from sunburn with utmost care because sunburn before the age of 15 doubles melanoma risk.

It is important to know that UVA penetrates glass, which is why an ordinary car or window glass does not protect against the harmful effect of UVA rays. Patients with melanoma who drive a car often have been researched and it has been revealed that in countries with right-hand traffic, the left arm is much more often affected by cancer.

Summary of recommendations:

  • avoid long exposure to intensive sunlight (from eleven in the morning to four in the evening);
  • avoid sunburn;
  • do not use sunbeds;
  • protect yourself every day with clothing, wide-brimmed headgear, sunglasses with ultraviolet protection and sunscreens labelled Broad Spectrum SPF 30+. You should apply sunscreen on your skin about half an hour before going out into the sun and once again after two hours or swimming or intensive perspiration!
  • check your skin and moles at least once a month;
  • once a year, have your physician examine your skin and moles, unless the physician has recommended more frequent examinations.