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Facts About Sunscreens
There has been a frenzy of interest lately about a single article that indicated that perhaps sunscreens are not protective against skin cancers. Skin cancer experts have looked at this article closely and most feel like that it is not the final answer and still believe that sunscreens are definitely an aid to preventing skin cancer along with staying out of the sun in the hottest part of the day and wearing appropriate clothing. There have been a large number of other articles (hundreds) which have come to just the opposite conclusion and a single article should not sway us yet.
Many sunscreens contain an SPF number which his determined by testing in a laboratory using a machine that simulates sunlight. What the SPF stands for is Sun Protection Factor and can be understood as follows: if a sunscreen is rated SPF 2 and a person who would normally turn red after 10 minutes of exposure in the sun uses it, it would than take 20 minutes (2 times) of exposure for the skin to burn in that person; a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would allow that person to multiply that initial burning time by 156 (or in the case of this person 150 minutes). Generally speaking, people who have very sensitive skin to sunburns and do not tan very easily should use an SPF of 15 or higher.
The other factors to consider would include whether a person has sensitive skin and is easily irritated by certain chemicals. PABA free sunscreens should be used for those who have trouble with PABA (one of the first chemical blocking agents). Some sunscreens contain no chemicals at all and usually have titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide as finely ground particles. Some sunscreens stay on better in water and with sweat and should be used by those who are swimming or in very hot climates. Finally, some sunscreens are presented in different vehicles such as gels, lotions, alcoholic solutions, and creams or ointments. A person's own individual taste will determine which one they prefer. Recently, more broad-spectrum sunscreens and sunblocks (implying that there is a blockage of all sunlight wavelengths) have been introduced and are probably worthy of our attention. They frequently will have a higher SPF number than 15 and will say on the bottle that they also screen UVA rays the SPF number refers only to UVB rays). These are the rays found in most tanning booths and are more and more becoming a suspect as the cause of skin cancers and aging of the skin.
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