SUNCREEN: WHY, WHEN AND WHICH SPF?

Hola Ajali lovers!

Is it just me or is the weather unbearably hot these days?! All I can think about as I’m walking down the streets of Lagos is if I remembered to put on some sunscreen! I know you’re probably thinking “Yeah, yeah dark skinned people don’t need sunscreen! This melanin is all the protection I need!” Well I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but that’s not true.  Sunscreen is needed by people of all complexions, especially those of us living in regions with exceptionally harsh weather like we have here in Nigeria.

Why Do I Need to Wear Sunscreen?

Sunscreens have several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from penetrating our skin and with our ozone layer depleting with every waking day, this extra protection is needed more now than ever before. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF), about 90% of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s harmful radiation, and sunscreen is one of the key strategies that helps prevent excessive exposure. Sunscreen can also prevent sunburn, photoaging (i.e. premature dryness, wrinkling, discolouration and leathery appearance of skin) and immune system suppression.

When Do I Need To Wear Sunscreen?

The sunlight that reaches us is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer which can lead to photoaging and suppression of the immune system. UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin and play a key role in the development of skin cancer. The intensity of UVB rays vary by season, location and time of day, with 10AM to 3PM being the peak hours. But if you think you only need to wear sunscreen on hot sunny days between 10 and 3, think again! Sun exposure occurs all day long so even when it is a cloudy and rainy day those pesky rays are still out there and can wreak havoc. It’s best to wear sunscreen every single day to be safe, and apply it at least 15 minutes before you go outside.


What SPF Should I Choose?

There are two basic types of sunscreen; mineral or natural sunscreens which physically block ultraviolet radiation and chemical sunscreens that absorb ultraviolet radiation. We’ll talk more about the difference between these two in next week’s post, but for today we’re going to concentrate on SPFs i.e. Sun Protection Factor. The SPF number in sunscreen tells a person how much longer they can stay in the sun without damaging affects. For example, SPF 15 will protect your skin 15 times longer than if you wore no sunscreen. SPF 30 will protect your skin 30 times longer, and so on. More specifically:

  • SPF15: BLOCKS 93% of ultraviolet radiation
  • SPF30: blocks 96.7% of ultraviolet radiation
  • SPF50: blocks 98% of ultraviolet radiation

For Nigeria, I’d recommend you choose a daily sunscreen that is at between SPF40-50 and has UVA/UVB (i.e. broad spectrum) coverage. But I’ll get more into this next week where I’ll be discussing the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens and specific sunscreen recommendations.

Till next time peace and love.

Written by Ezichi Ananaba

Comments (1)

  1. Laraomolee says:

    Nice article!
    Now I know differences in SPF’s
    Keep it up.

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