Naked, Afraid, and Sunburned: Where’s the Sunscreen?

As I stepped outside today (someone has to take the trash out), I felt an ever-so-pleasant warm California sun on my face.

This got me thinking about a recent show I started watching on The Discovery Channel. The new series “Naked and Afraid” recently had one of the contestants wishing that the sun on his face, or rather his entire naked body, was not quite so warming.

As you can clearly see in the video, the contestant, Jonathon, is fair-skinned and mentions his concern with burning at the start of the episode. This is what happened within a few hours on that beach.

I don’t know about you, but that looks like it hurts to me. This eventually got me thinking about sunscreen types and strengths. So in order to avoid this

and this

I did some research to break down the basics for you.

Sunscreen has been around for thousands of years. Ancient people often used jasmine and olive oil to protect their skin. In 1938, Franz Greiter, an Austrian chemist, developed the first commercially available sunscreen. Today we have an array of brand names, types, and ratings for sunscreen.

If you’re anything like me, you probably want to know which sunscreen is the best for you. I’m going to break it down for you easily so you can protect your skin.

Today there are two main types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Chemical sunscreen absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and physical sunscreen, or sunblock, reflects ultraviolet rays.

Physical sunscreen blocks and reflects both UVA and UVB light and normally contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Physical sunscreen tends to go easier on people with sensitive skin allergies.

Chemical sunscreen normally absorbs UVB rays. Although some have chemicals to absorb UVA and UVB rays.

Another option is a broad-spectrum sunscreen which contains both physical and chemical ingredients for increased protection.

Now what does this mean in layman’s terms? UVB rays cause those awful sunburns while UVA rays contribute to premature aging and long-term damage to your skin. There is one more thing to consider when purchasing that sunscreen: SPF.

Sun Protection Factor, SPF, is a rating system developed in the 60’s to rate how long your skin will be protected from UVB rays. There is no rating system for UVA rays currently.
Essentially, to determine your protection you should use this formula:

minutes till you burn without sunscreen x SPF number = approximate max sun exposure time

I burn very quickly, no thanks to my fair skin, in about five minutes in direct sun with no sunscreen. So if I use an SPF 30 sunscreen I can expect about two and a half hours of protection (5 minutes X 30 SPF = 150 Minutes). SPF numbers above 30 tend to have skewed results and do not dramatically increase protection.

Just as a reminder, even with proper application of your chosen sunscreen, prolonged exposure can cause burns and long-term damage to your skin. So here are a few tips for those long days at the beach.

– Reapply according to the sunscreen’s label, especially after sweating and water exposure.

– No sunscreen can protect you if you miss a spot while applying it. (Don’t forget those ears.)

– Apply 20 to 30 minutes before going into the sun for better results.

I hope this broke down the basics for everyone. I personally use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours and find it works great. Please remember even if you don’t feel burned and choose to go without sunscreen, those darn UVA rays will damage your skin. See you outside in the sun. Comments are always welcome.

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