We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We All Scream For Sunscreen

When you finally get the chance to kick back and relax after a long work week, it makes complete sense not to let anything else hold you back from relishing in the summer’s open breeze. But what if taking an extra step could make your vacation time even more stress-free? Consider using sunscreen.
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Beach blanket? Check. Beach ball? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Sunscreen? (Photo Credit: Onela Ymeri / Unsplash)

As the days start getting longer and the sun climbs higher in the sky, it’s clear that summer is on its way. With it comes the promise of outdoor adventures, beach trips, and backyard barbecues. 

Perhaps you’re packing your sun hat, a striped beach towel, and a well-loved novel to the beach. As the waves crash together, you stretch your legs out onto the sand, your skin soaking up the sun’s affectionate rays. The ocean breeze carries whispers of adventure, and you dive into the salty embrace, surfboard in hand.

Or maybe you could be gathering friends and family for a picnic. The grass tickles your ankles as you spread out the checkered blanket. Sandwiches, watermelon slices, and laughter fill the air. 

But wait! Before you dive headfirst into the fun, it’s important to remember the basics. Sure, soaking up those rays can feel great, but it’s also essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. So, as you gear up for a summer of sun-soaked fun, don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen. It might not be the most exciting part of your summer routine, but it’s definitely one of the most important.

Unfortunately, some people squirm at the thought of slathering on sunscreen, preferring to opt for facing the sun’s wrath rather than feeling like a marinated chicken. Others are on a mission to achieve that golden glow and believe utilizing skin protection would only be a hindrance in their mission. Active sunblock avoiders may also instead associate the lotion as the cause of skin cancer itself. So, they all roam bare-skinned, hoping their defiance will ward off the harmful UV rays.

The concept of protecting the skin from the sun’s harsh rays dates back to ancient civilizations. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used plant extracts and natural ingredients like rice bran, jasmine, and olive oil to shield their skin. However, during these time periods, there hadn’t been much information regarding the harmful effects of sunlight and skin, and their sunblock concoctions were mainly used to avoid tanning and sunburns.   

But what’s in our sunscreen today?

The answers to this question varies quite a bit depending on the type of sunscreen we are referring to. Considering there are both physical and chemical options for sunscreen, components that are used in each type respectively are certain to combat the sun’s rays in different ways. 

The ingredients that make up sunscreen with physical filters include minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which block and scatter the sun rays like a shield barrier before they penetrate your skin. Sunscreen with chemical filters on the other hand contains like avobenzone and octisalate which absorb UV rays like sponges before your skin can be affected.

But why is this important?

Every time we are in contact with the sun, UV radiation damages our DNA. After continuous UV damage, we can eventually develop cancer. There are typically three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC, but the one to be most weary of is UVB, as the light interferes with the bonding between nucleotides in DNA. This disruption leads to the formation of specific DNA lesions, breaks, or other changes in the structure of the helix, preventing transcription. UVA on the other hand is radiation that damages DNA indirectly by creating reactive oxygen species (ROS), which contribute to mutations. Therefore, protecting your skin from excessive UV exposure is essential for maintaining DNA integrity and reducing the risk of skin cancers.

One type of skin cancer is melanoma. This type of cancer occurs when cells that produce melanin start to grow uncontrollably. While melanoma is not as likely to occur as other forms of skin cancers, its risk factor comes from the vulnerability of other parts of the body to receive this mutation. Due to the fast-paced growth of the condition, being able to note the symptoms is a necessary factor in catching it early. When caught in a timely manner, melanoma can be treated successfully. Characteristics to look out for consist of moles that appear different from the left and right side, moles with multiple colors or patterns, and any new itchiness or bleeding.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) on the other hand is a more common type of skin cancer and it involves the basal cells, which restore damaged skin cells. BCC is usually identified as having a flesh-colored bump on the skin and can develop an ulceration. Those with lighter skin are more so at risk due to there being less melanin helping protect the skin against UV rays. Unlike melanoma, BCCs rarely spread to other parts of the body, but they can still cause a great deal of region-specific damage. However, consistently self-monitoring of the skin and seeking the assistance of a professional can pave the path for receiving an effective form of treatment in the long run, which could consist of surgery removal, cryotherapy, or medication. An additional precaution that could be taken to avoid conditions such as Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) are using broad-spectrum sunscreens. 

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) on the other hand is a more common type of skin cancer and it involves the basal cells, which restore damaged skin cells. BCC is usually identified as having a flesh-colored bump on the skin and can develop an ulceration. Those with lighter skin are more so at risk due to there being less melanin helping protect the skin against UV rays. Unlike melanoma, BCCs rarely spread to other parts of the body, but they can still cause a great deal of region-specific damage. However, consistently self-monitoring of the skin and seeking the assistance of a professional can pave the path for receiving an effective form of treatment in the long run, which could consist of surgery removal, cryotherapy, or medication. An additional precaution that could be taken to avoid conditions such as Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) are using sunscreens meant for a wide variety of individuals. 

A lesser-known reason why someone might be put off by sunscreen is simply being uninformed about the varying SPF numbers.

These numbers indicate how effectively the sunscreen protects your skin from UV B rays. If redness is to appear shortly after the exposure, using an SPF 15 sunscreen can delay the symptoms up to 15 times longer. Higher SPF values offer even more extended protection. For example, SPF 30 blocks about 96.7% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks about 98%. Regardless of your skin type, however, applying an SPF 30 or higher on all exposed skin daily is recommended, seasons other than summer included.

As seen in the media, the fact that darker skin is naturally more resistant to sun damage is a common subject. Subsequently, some individuals with darker skin tones may say they may not need sunscreen. However, this is a common misconception that can have negative consequences. While melanin is a natural protector of the skin, it doesn’t make darker skin immune to potential damage and conditions such as skin cancer, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation can affect anyone and everyone. Darker skin has an inherent SPF of around 13.4, but this isn’t sufficient for prolonged sun exposure. Using sunscreen with a higher SPF provides additional protection. SPF 30 or higher is recommended for everyone, regardless of skin tone.

By applying sunscreen with the proper SPF you can not only ensure protected skin, but also a summer experience. Remember, protecting your skin is like protecting yourself. 

So, as you gear up for a summer of sun-soaked fun, don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen. It might not be the most exciting part of your summer routine, but it’s definitely one of the most important.

About the Contributor
Desara Zejnati, Staff Reporter
Desara Zejnati is an Arts and Entertainment Editor for ‘The Science Survey.' She savors the endless cyclical aspects of journalistic writing that allow her to provide reliable information to the world.. She enjoys using photography to show how a single instance in time can fill in the blank spaces and make up visually for the things she can't put into words. She sees pictures as the only components of journalistic works that don't require a translation because of their innate ability to achieve a universal understanding that is embedded deeply within human nature. Outside of school, Desara often finds herself making origami, listening to music, and reading short stories. She plans to focus on her interests in Neuroscience and humanities in her future endeavors and hopes to continue to incorporate journalism into her future endeavors.