by TERESA SCHIFFER
Sponsored by Central Florida Health Care
It’s summertime in Florida, and those long summer days drench us in even more sunshine than we get throughout the rest of the year. Are you wearing sunscreen? If not, you definitely should be. Damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation adds up over the years, increasing the risk of dangerous skin cancers.
Melanin, the substance within the body that provides pigmentation to the skin and hair, is our body’s natural defense against UV rays, but there is a limit to how much protection that pigment provides. It is a common misconception that people who have dark skin don’t need to wear sunscreen because they will not burn. That is certainly not the case.
“The skin is the largest organ of the body. So even if you have dark skin, you can still have too much UV light and too much sun,” nurse practitioner Amelia Espinosa Villalobos explains. “No matter what color of skin you have, you need to take precautions. Make sure you cover your skin and take care of it.”
Amelia Espinosa Villalobos is Central Florida Health Care’s newest nurse practitioner, having joined the clinic in May of this year, and she has some valuable advice regarding summer skincare. After working in internal medicine, urgent care, addictions medicine, and home health care for several years, Villalobos is excited to join the Central Florida Health Care team and is looking forward to making a positive impact in the lives of patients.
“A lot of people look at it as when people get dark, it’s enhancing the melanin in their skin,” she points out. “If someone is lighter-skinned, and they’re out in the sun, and their skin darkens, it’s, of course, because they’ve got that melanin. Take me, for example. I’m Spanish, and a majority of Spanish people easily tan and they don’t want to use sunscreen. Very often, I find a lot of people not wearing sunscreen whether they have dark skin or light skin.”
There are two types of ultraviolet radiation contained in the rays from the sun that make it through the Earth’s atmosphere to affect us. A third type, UVC, is completely filtered out by the planet’s ozone layer. As for the other two, UVA and UVB rays are able to travel through the atmosphere to reach us, though some UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer. UVA rays have the longest wavelengths, followed by UVB, and then UVC rays have the shortest wavelengths.
When shopping for sunscreen, look for verification that the product protects against both UVA and UVB light. SPF, which stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” actually only protects against UVB rays. Look for the “broad spectrum” designation on the product label to ensure that the sunscreen you choose does protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Invest in a formula that has at least an SPF of 30. It’s okay to get a higher SPF product, but SPF 30 will filter out close to 97 percent of UVB rays, whereas an SPF 50 product protects against 98 percent of UVB radiation, and an SPF 100 provides 99 percent protection. No product can provide 100 percent protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.
No matter what SPF rating you choose to go with, it’s important to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day. If you are working indoors and not next to a window, you may not need to reapply. However, if you are getting sunshine throughout the day either through a window or by being outdoors, you should reapply sun protection at least every two hours. If you are swimming or sweating, then your sunscreen needs to be reapplied every forty to eighty minutes.
Enjoy the summer, but please be safe, and if you have any concerns about your skin’s condition, Central Florida Health Care providers are ready to help.