Guest Column

By Mary G Schmidt

Good to Glow

As the marine layer lingers it’s the perfect time to reselect your arsenal of sunscreens before the sizzlin’ summer sun has a chance to burn your body.


Let’s start with the basics. The definition of SPF is the sun protection factor: the degree to which a sunscreen protects the skin from the direct rays of the sun.


Now lets apply the ABC’s of the UVA and the UVB rays. The sun emits ultraviolet radiation in form of 95% UVA and 5% UVB bands. It is also important to know what happens to the skin as it is tanned or burned and what the long-term, harmful effects may be. UVB rays are most responsible for burning skin. The rays actually pop the capillaries just beneath the skin’s surface.


Long-wavelength, UVA rays have totally different results on the skin. As UVA rays penetrate into the skin, melanin granules are oxidized and tan, or, turn golden brown. However, UVB rays are required to stimulate these melanin granules to rise to the skins surface, especially in skin that possesses small amounts of the pigment, melanin. UVA rays are not actually your allies either as they contribute to skin cancer and wrinkles!


So now that you literally know what’s coming down, let’s slather it up! Apply your favorite brand of sunscreen on every inch of exposed skin every single day. For the record, SPF foundation make-up doesn’t count (you don’t use enough of it for protection), so layer it on top of sunscreen.


Heading to the beach? The sunlight’s effects intensify with reflection from the sand and the sea! Apply SPF from head to toe before suiting up (swimsuits can shift, revealing unprotected skin).  The recommended amount is enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass.  How handy is that?


Sunscreen doesn’t last all day so get into the habit of reapplying every 80 minutes or immediately after swimming, says Robert A. Weiss, MD, president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. First scan the label for the words “broad spectrum” and check the ingredient list for sun blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, all indications that your formula shields you from UVA and UVB, the two types of skin wrinkling cancer-causing rays.


What’s your lucky number? Shoot for at least 30 SPF, as recommended by the Academy of Dermatology, which measures a product’s ability to protect only against UVB, which leads to burns. There is no way for you to know how much UVA protection is included in a sunscreen.


This October the FDA will be publishing rules to address sunscreens formulations with regards to the percentage of protection from UVA.   Sunscreens’ effectiveness degrades over time so check the expiration date.

Getting smart about sun exposure and adopting new, healthy skin habits now- can literally save your life.


Personal trainer and nutritional consultant Mary G. Schmidt teaches exercise classes at the Susi Q Center and was cast in “Lagunatics.”

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