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Are sunscreens beneficial? Is it harmful?

The public awareness of the health hazards of the sun is increasing day by day. However, the results of the studies show that adequate precautions have not been taken yet for protection. In addition, discussions continue about the benefits of sunscreen creams as well as harmful effects. Despite all the discussions, it should not be forgotten that sunscreens are one of the most effective and safe methods of protection when chosen and used correctly.

What are the harmful effects of the sun?

* Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn and sunstroke. Babies and the elderly are more easily affected by the sun.

* The sun can cause skin cancer. Especially those who have had a lot of sunburn and those who have been exposed to the sun frequently and intensely since childhood are at risk. This risk is higher, especially in fair-skinned people.

* The sun causes skin aging and staining on the skin.

* In some people, it can cause sun allergies that occur with an itchy rash on sun-exposed areas.

How can we protect ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun?

* Avoid being under the sun during the noon hours when the sun is strong (between 10:00 and 16:00).

* Using clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, glasses, T-shirts to protect from the sun.

* Keeping in mind that snow, sea and sand can increase sunburn by reflecting the sun’s rays.

* Using sunscreen creams with a sun protection factor of at least 30.

What is sun protection factor?

The invisible rays that reach us from the sun are called ultraviolet rays. There are 2 different wavelengths, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVB rays are the wavelength responsible for sunburn. UVA rays can reach the deeper layers of the skin. Both wavelengths increase skin cancer and skin aging. The sun protection factor (SPF) written on sunscreens shows how much the product protects from UVB. For example, when a sunscreen cream with SPF 15 is used, the redness response due to UVB will appear 15 times longer. (If redness appears in 10 minutes without applying sunscreen, this time will be extended to 150 minutes with the sunscreen.)

What should we pay attention to when choosing sunscreen?

* It is very important that it has broad-effective protection against both UVA and UVB waves. Protectors that only block UVB will allow prolonged exposure to the sun as they prevent sunburn on the skin and will do more harm than good as they do not protect from harmful UVA rays.

* It is necessary to choose a product with a protection factor of at least 30 (SPF 30).

* Those with oily skin can choose gel or oil-free and water-based products, while people with dry skin can choose cream-based products. In body protection, the use of spray products may be more practical. Water-resistant products can continue their activities longer when sweating and in water.

Which sunscreens should we choose for babies and pregnant women?

Sunscreen creams are divided into two groups according to their content as chemical and physical preservatives. Physical protectors contain mineral filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that reflect the sun’s rays. Mineral-containing products can be preferred for babies and pregnant women as they contain less chemicals. Sunburns in childhood increase the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, it is very important for children to be protected from the sun.

Do sunscreen creams protect against skin cancer?

Common skin cancers are basal cell cancer and squamous (squamous) cell cancer, and malignant melanoma, which can be fatal. It has been shown in studies that sunscreen creams protect from squamous cell cancer. The issue of whether they can protect from malignant melanoma is controversial. In a study published in 2011, it was reported that regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk of melanoma. In addition, sunscreens prevent the formation of new moles.

How should sunscreen creams be used?

Studies show that sunscreen creams are used incorrectly. For this reason, they cannot show enough effect and sometimes they do more harm than good.

* They should be applied 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun.

* The sun protection factor should be at least 30.

* In order for the product to protect as much as the factor written on the box, it should be applied as a thick layer. This dose should be 2 mg/cm². Studies usually show that a dose of up to a quarter of that amount is used. The amount of preservative required to protect the face, neck, ears, arms and legs should be 2 tablespoons.

* They need to be reapplied every two hours.

* They should be reapplied after swimming and drying.

* Most importantly, sunscreen creams should not give us unnecessary confidence and should not increase the time we stay in the sun.

Do sunscreen creams reduce vitamin D production?

90% of the production of vitamin D in our body is through sunlight. Theoretically, vitamin D deficiency can occur when sunscreens with a high protection factor are applied to all sun-exposed areas of the body on a daily basis. In this case, vitamin D must be taken orally. Sunscreens are generally not applied adequately to all sun-exposed areas in daily life and are often used during holiday periods where long hours are spent in the sun. In this case, they do not cause vitamin D deficiency.

Do sunscreen creams have any harmful effects?

Chemicals in sunscreen creams, especially PABA (paraamininobenzoic acid) and oxybenzone, can cause eczema or sun allergy. For this reason, people with allergic or sensitive skin and people with sun allergies may prefer protectors containing mineral filters. In babies and pregnant women, products that do not contain paraben should be preferred, for which debates continue about their hormone-like effects.