Category Archives: Summer

Sunburned on a Cloudy Day

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Image from The Jagged Word

Andrea Hernandez

You might think you can’t get sunburned on a cloudy day. But some of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can pass through.

There are three  types of UV radiation from the sun: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While UVC gets filtered out in the ozone layer of the atmosphere, UVA and UVB reach the earth’s surface. UVA contributes to wrinkles and other signs of aging, while UVB affects the surface of the skin and can cause sunburns and skin cancer.

Reflective surfaces can increase UVR exposure. For example, snow reflects a higher amount of UVR compared to sand and metal. Skiers are exposed to more UVR because of altitude and reflection off the snow.

One way to counter UV radiation is by wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen protects you by reflecting and absorbing the UV rays through inorganic and organic chemicals. Inorganic chemicals like zinc oxide reflect UV rays. UV radiation can be absorbed by the chemical bonds of organic chemicals like avobenzone. The ingredients of the sunscreen slowly break down and release heat.

It might be best to purchase a sunscreen lotion with a broad-spectrum because it blocks against both UVA and UVB. It is recommended to use a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) sunscreen lotion higher than 15. The higher the SPF refers to the higher the percent the sunscreen protects against UV rays. Sunscreen cannot block 100 percent of UV rays. The SPF number refers to approximately how long it will take for a person’s skin to turn red.

Sun damage is cumulative–it builds up over time. Therefore, it is important to wear sunscreen and protective clothing whenever you are outdoors or working near a window, especially between the hours of 10am to 4pm.


Can the Sun Cure Your Acne?

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Photo from Vichy

Nicole Kell

Acne can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.  Most adults and teens have acne at some point in their life and have most likely tried a variety of home and commercial remedies. Sunbathing has long been touted as a home remedy.  

Unfortunately, the sun can actually do more harm than good for your acne. Dermatologist Jessica Wu, M.D, author of Feed Your Face  states, “the sun’s UV rays zap acne-causing bacteria, which is why pimples may clear up temporarily. Plus, pimples and red marks may look less obvious when your skin is tanned.”  

Also, when the sun damages your skin, the immune cells in your skin are suppressed, which may reduce the size and redness of acne. This this may be pleasing at first, but excessive sun exposure can cause pimples to end up as dark scars because the sun’s ultraviolet rays can increase inflammation and redness and create new breakouts.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are also dangerous because they are the primary cause of skin cancer. Also, many acne medication and topical creams such as isotretinoin make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause it to burn faster.

Be sure to always apply sunscreen when you’re going to be exposed to sunlight, just be sure to use one that is oil-free.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens

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Photo from Spectrum Healthcare

Madison McGuire

While it is important to wear broad spectrum sunscreen everyday, many people don’t realize that the category of sunscreen should be considered as well. Physical sunscreens, or “sun blocks,” create a barrier on the skin that filters out UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb and scatter the sun’s harsh UV rays.

Physical sunscreens contain mineral-based ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and work by staying on top of the skin to deflect UV rays away from the skin. These products offer protection from both UVA rays and UVB rays, are safe for babies, are less likely to irritate sensitive skin, and have a longer shelf life. However, more frequent application is required as the thick formula can rub or sweat off. They also take more effort to rub in.

Chemical, or organic, sunscreens contain chemical compounds that absorb UV rays, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone. Many ingredients are required to create both UVA and UVB protection at higher SPFs. As the organic chemicals absorb UV radiation, their bonds break, and the resulting energy is released as heat. These products are thinner and spread like a lotion, making it more practical for daily use. However, chemical sunscreens increase the risk of skin irritation and increase redness on rosacea-prone skin from the influx of heat on the skin. They only become effective approximately 20 minutes after application and also have an increased risk for clogged pores and breakouts.

In addition, recent research has shown that several active ingredients in these sunscreens enter the bloodstream at levels that far exceed the FDA’s recommended threshold. However, the effects of this systemic absorption on human health is not known and needs further study.

Despite popular debate, there is no optimal category of sunscreen.  Each individual can consider the pros and cons when choosing a product. While chemical sunscreens are preferred by those who sweat a lot and need a water-resistant formulation, physical sunscreens are recommended for those with sensitive skin. Whatever kind of sunscreen you choose, the most important factor is to apply it regularly to prevent future skin damage.