- $65 for six weeks of unlimited tanning in any bed ($140 value)
Sunscreen: The Last Defense Against the ABCs
Whether on the beach or in a tanning booth, UV rays can result in either a radiant tan or a wicked sunburn. Read on to learn about the savior of our skin—sunscreen.
Evolving from a red, sticky jelly used by soldiers in WWII to the myriad creams, lotions, and sprays we use today, sunscreen is vital to ensuring the skin’s short-term radiance doesn’t result in long-term damage. But to understand how it works, it’s important to understand the enemy. The sun emits UV radiation in three forms: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA radiation deeply penetrates skin, potentially causing cancer and premature aging in the long term. UVB radiation’s effects are easier to see, namely the tans and sunburns it causes on the skin’s outer layer. UVC rays, meanwhile, never reach our skin; they’re completely absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, making them a danger only to sunbathing angels.
Sunscreen comes in two types, each suited to protect against certain rays. The classic concoction of thick, white ooze is made of inorganic particles, such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide, that reflect and scatter the UVB rays most likely to cause a sunburn. But these particles don’t protect against deeper-penetrating UVA rays, so scientists have developed sunscreens with synthesized organic molecules that absorb the radiation entirely and release the excess energy as heat. Dermatologists recommend choosing a sunscreen that filters both wavelengths of radiation—labeled as broad spectrum—to ensure full protection.
As for the infamous SPF rating, most people apply less than the recommended amount of lotion, so choose an SPF of at least 30. Anything over 50, however, is likely excessive—unless you’re trapped inside a nuclear-fusion reactor, in which case you’ll want SPF 80.