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SPF definition and tips from Dr. Lancer

Dr. Lancer Explains Everything You Need to Know About SPF

LA Dermatologist, Dr. Harold Lancer, advises and treats some of Hollywood’s most revered starlets. We caught up with the man himself to talk all things SPF, and find out why sunscreen should be everyone’s summer essential.

Why do we tan?
Tanning happens when UVA and UVB light trigger melanin production in our dermis. In layman’s terms, this means pigment is produced in the deep layers of the skin.

What causes sunburn?
Sunburn is the result of excessive exposure to UV light without protection. When our cells have been exposed to an amount of UV light that their melanin production can no longer keep up with, the body triggers an immune response to remove damaged cells. This is what we recognise as sunburn.

What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which, contrary to popular belief, does not indicate the number of minutes you will be protected from UV light, but rather the factor of protection you are receiving. For example, by using a SPF 10, you are protected for ten times longer than your skin could normally withstand UV light without becoming damaged. For example, if you are usually able to be in direct sun for only five minutes before you burn, an SPF of 10 would mean you are protected for 50 minutes.

What are the differences between UVA and UVB rays?
UVA rays are long length ultraviolet rays and UVB rays are short length ultraviolet rays. UVA rays penetrate more deeply than UVB rays, meaning they can lead to risk of skin cancer and growths, whereas UVB rays tend to cause superficial burns. The strength and presence of UVB rays are affected by the season, geographical location and the time of day.

Why is it advised to wear facial sunscreen even when it’s cloudy?
UV light is able to penetrate cloud cover, and even though it may feel as if you are protected from the light, at a cellular level you are at just as much of a risk.

Do you have any tips for applying sun protection?
If possible, have someone help you apply your sunscreen if you are going to be wearing a bathing suit. Many skin cancers and sun damage occur in areas that people can’t reach or see, like the back, tops of shoulders and scalp. You should also keep in mind that the only time you don’t need sunscreen is when you require a flashlight to see.

Is sunbathing safe?
Sunbathing is never safe. If you enjoy the feel of the sun, try exercising outdoors before 9am or after 3pm when the sun is weakest. Wear an SPF of at least 45, a hat and long sleeves to stay as protected as possible.

Should we use different formulas for face and body?
This is really a matter of personal preference, although I would not recommend someone use a body formula on the face due to the possibility of clogged pores or irritation. If you find a facial sunscreen that you like, feel free to use it on your neck, chest, ears, tops of your shoulders and back. As long as you are using a sunscreen with adequate protection, you should be fine.

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