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What do you really know about sunscreen?

Okay, okay, I know you have been slathering sunscreen on as long as you can remember. And you know the higher the SPF, the more protection and that you should reapply after “swimming or excessive sweating or toweling,” as the back of the bottle says.

But there are also plenty of things you might not know. Brush up on your sunscreen knowledge now so you’re prepared to stay safe in the sun this summer.

Get to know your rays (no, not your Ray Bans!)

Do you know the difference between UVA and UVB rays? There are two types of ultraviolet rays that come from the sun (and your Ray Bans can protect your eyes from both, FYI). Ultraviolet A rays are longwave, which means that while they are less likely to burn your skin, they will penetrate more deeply and cause damage to collagen and other components of your skin. This damage rears its ugly head by way of wrinkles, saggy and leathery skin and sun spots. UVA rays can be blocked with sunscreen, but they can damage skin through clouds, windows and even lightweight clothing. Unlike UVB rays, which are at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the summer months, UVA rays shine with equal strength all day, every day.

Ultraviolet B rays are called shortwave, and they are the ones responsible for that blistery burn you get if you forget sunscreen. UVB rays cause burning and tanning, damaging the skin’s outer layers. UVB rays are the leading player in the development of skin cancer, too, so you’ll definitely want to protect yourself against these villains.

Yes, higher SPFs ARE better!

Even though there are sunscreens out there that boast sun protection factors of 50, 70, 80 and even 90, many people believe that there is no benefit to an SPF higher than 30. The truth is, the higher the number, the higher the percentage of ultraviolet rays will be blocked.

Sunscreen with SPF 15 will block 93 percent of UV rays, while SPF 30 will block 96 percent. Anything higher than 30 will block anywhere from 97 to 99 percent of these rays.

No matter the SPF, the most important aspect of sunscreen is reapplication. Slather yours on every two hours to prevent damage.

Dark skin still needs protection

“I have never gotten a sunburn in my life,” my olive-skinned friend likes to boast to people at the beach. Many women with dark skin believe they don’t need sunscreen because they don’t burn as easily, but let’s remember our UV lesson, shall we?

Whether or not the UVB rays are burning your epidermis, all skin is created equal in the the eyes of a UVA ray. That means that even if you have more melanin in your skin for protection, UVA rays will still shine deep into your skin, causing wrinkles and potentially skin cancer.

Let your sunscreen know-how carry you through a happy, harmless summer.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing lrstewar@gmail.com.