Why We Need Sunscreen

The more you know, the more you realize why you need sunscreens.    With this idea in mind, I want to help you understand why you need to add wearing sun blocking clothing as an important part of protecting your skin.


So what is this SPF thing?   This is the abbreviation for the Sun Protection Factor.  This is actually the measuring factor used for our sunscreens and sunblock sticks, the sprays we use.    SPF is only measuring the protection from the Ultra Violet Rays, or the UVB rays.   A label stating SPF tells you how long you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned.

So SPF  = protection from UVB rays only and informs you how long before sunburn will start.  There is another part of this problem, UVA rays aren’t actually measured by SPF!  An in-depth will follow in a few days for UVA rays.

How Much Is Enough Sunscreen To Apply

Another problem with this sunscreen measurement thing is the fact that you probably don’t use enough of the product as you apply it.  I am sure that there is an actual measurement of how much is recommended.  However, here is where you get into some murky situations.  A 5-foot tall, 100-pound adult and a 6-foot tall 180-pound adult will need different amounts to cover the difference in their skin surface.

If you have experienced sunburn in the past after applying the product, you may have not used enough.  An estimated amount of sunscreen to apply to your skin at one time is in the neighborhood of 3 tablespoons.  Obviously an adjustment is needed for the body size you are protecting.

So already I know we aren’t not using enough sunscreen.  I am tall, 40 lbs too heavy.  And I have been using about a tablespoon from top to bottom.  Trying to make the sunscreen lotion stretch!  Not waste it by using too much.  I am wasting it because I am not using enough!  It is almost as bad as not using sunscreen at all.

No wonder we do not get the protection the product makers promised.

If I am tall, it is safe to assume that my kids are tall as well.  We used a bottle of sunscreen for several outings.  So yes, we definitely are in the 1/3 of the population who don’t use enough product to protect ourselves.

It is no wonder we have freckles, and cells that don’t have enough basic DNA to correctly regrow!  We have dry skin that gets oily when we over-apply moisturizer.  However, when we do nothing it is a dry and scaly patch on our skin.  Who knew what we were doing to ourselves with all the sun exposure?

SPF Of 30

A Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 seems to be the strength of most recommended.  However, when my sister-in-law had her last dermatologist visit the recommended number of the SPF was 50.  So not all experts agree, and besides the size of the body you are rubbing sunscreen on to protect from the sun, what about the natural pigment of your skin?  It is not a one size fits all situation.  You must have some information to work through how you need the sunscreen to work.

Are you light-skinned? Fair headed?  Have Freckles?  Red Headed? What about your family’s history of skin cancer?  These are all questions you need to ask yourself.

How Much Are You Exposed To The Sun?

How much are you outside or in the sun every day? Drive back and forth to work?  The tinted windows help protect you from the sun, but what about that sunroof you thought was so cool.  How about your vacations? Travel by car for vacations?  Do you spend lots of time in your vehicle?

How do the backs of your hands look?  Have you protected them from the sun?  This protection is the first to get washed and rubbed away.  How often do you remember to reapply?

What Part Of The World Do You Live In?

This is also an overlooked part of the protection of our skin from the sun and a reason for considering sun blocking clothing.  In our part of the world, we have lots of sun.  We love to be outside.

We have kids who are active and need to be active in lots of outdoor activities.  I have spent hours in the sun watching ball games from T-ball to soccer.  Soft ball to high school baseball games.  I loved being able to do these things.

Our girls liked softball and tennis. Our son enjoyed baseball from beginning levels to the high school level.  We spent hours in the sun watching the games.  The kids spent more hours by the time you add practice sessions. Living in the sunshine was a big part of what we did.  I am grateful that volleyball and basketball were played indoors.

I am sorry to say we didn’t apply sunscreen.  It just wasn’t known at that time how much the repeated sun exposure was accumulating for them. As I think about all the hours of time in the sun, it is no wonder we are where we are with sun exposure. Those strawberry blonde kids never had a chance!

Summer Vacations

Next, you must add in the hours on bicycles, just being outside.  Now, the hours spent getting back and fort to these sporting events.  We lived in the country,  it was 20 miles to town.  You guessed it!  Straight sunny highways.  No shaded paths for us.  The part of the world we lived in was actually a desert with scrubby bushes and lots of wind and sun.  Our car windows were not tinted.  Sun exposure.  What we did to our own skin as well as our children’s skin.

Then there are vacations.  We were a family that loves being out on a lake waterskiing.  When you live in southeastern New Mexico, there are no tree-shaded lakeside areas to enjoy.  There are big water storage lakes that are built to help farmers grow crops.  Built along a river that is trickling through the desert areas, as well as the fertile agriculture areas that lie along the eastern side of New Mexico.  The Pecos River can carry a great deal of water.  It can almost dry up.  All in one summer.

Are you beginning to get the picture?  Do you see what happened because we didn’t know?  Our weekends spent outdoors?  Don’t let this same lack of knowledge affect your family.

Yes, I know there will always be people who acquire the most beautiful tan in the summertime and rarely show any sign of sunburn.  Even with little attention to protection for their skin.

This is true, some escape for reasons unknown to science.  Then there are those who suffer from serious skin cancer damage with limited exposure to the sun.  Do you want to keep rolling the dice to figure out which one you are?  I think I have lucked out all I can.  I will be extra careful.

In Summary SPF Explained

Lets’ start with Sun Protection Factor or SPF.  For instance, if your bare skin starts to redden in about 20 minutes of sun exposure,  a sunscreen of SPF 30 should give you 30 minutes before damage starts to occur.  Remember this only works if you apply enough product!

Another little tidbit to remember is that testing is done in a lab with all conditions controlled.  You don’t have so much control when in the real world with the heat, humidity before it becomes ineffective.  All of these factors need to be considered.  Did you get in the water for a while?  Of course, that means reapplying.  Even with the best of conditions, your protection will weaken and you will no longer have the protection you need after two hours.

The next finding is that SPF of over 50 will not help you keep from burning.  Even thinking you can keep from burning after 50 minutes in the sun is not thinking rationally. I know, the product says SPF 50.  So you should be good 50 minutes.  Again yes, under perfect circumstances.

However in lifetime realities, during the 50 minutes, you are exposing your skin, the product has already begun to deteriorate. You know that you reapply every 2 hours.  50 minutes is shy one hour by ten minutes.  You have lost 1/2 of your protection already. So at 60 minutes, you are not working with a product that has remained 100% stable and is protecting your skin.  It has already lost come of its ability to keep you from burning.

Skin Cancer Research

The one thing that is recommended by the skin cancer research findings is that you need to use the broad spectrum 30 SPF. Protect your skin and help lower the chances of skin cancer for you.  You may keep your skin from sunburn with an SPF product.   A broad-spectrum product to shield your skin from the other damaging rays will also help reduce skin cancer. Then we call to your attention


  There is so much information online.  I know you don’t want to read all the information that we now have to learn about skin cancers.


I didn’t either, but as member after member of my family has dealt with this result from too many hours in the sun, I decided to take the plunge.  There have been many weeks of research and study.  Visiting with my Dermatologist and other members of our clan, comparing what we have learned.  We have found that each Dermatologist has his or her own ideas about how we can help ourselves.


Hopefully, this information will help you protect yourself.  As I am sharing with my own family what I am finding out, I want the best of the best advice.  Maybe there will be something here you can use to make you and your loved ones.

By Sami

I want to be able to alert others to how the sun affects your skin. Awareness is the first step in learning how to protect ourselves from the sun and the skin cancer that often results.
Help your family get through life without skin cancer issues.

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