Is Sunscreen Truly Essential for Your Skin?

Sunscreen is widely recognized as a crucial skin protection measure, particularly for individuals living in areas with intense sunlight.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises people to “apply sunscreen every day to skin not covered by clothing if you will be outside,” yet online discussions reveal that not everyone adheres to this stringent guideline.

Sunscreen functions by forming a layer that absorbs ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the Sun before it penetrates the skin. This radiation can cause mutations that may lead to cancerous cells, permanently damaging skin cell DNA.

Discussing the necessity of sun exposure, Jonathan Ungar, an assistant professor of dermatology and medical director of the Waldman Melanoma and Skin Cancer Centre at Mount Sinai, told Health: “Generally speaking, light-skinned people only need about 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure on the face, arms, and legs a few times a week to get all the vitamin D they need.”

Ungar believes it is necessary to apply sunscreen even for brief periods of sun exposure, such as a short walk to your car. However, he notes that deciding whether to go outside without sunscreen for longer durations is more complex.

“It ultimately comes down to finding a balance between risks and benefits, ideally where the benefits outweigh the risks,” Ungar said. “As I tell my patients, there are two main ways to get Vitamin D: sun exposure versus supplementation. Only one of these is known to increase the risk of skin cancer, but you have to make the choice yourself.”

The key is to reap the benefits of sunlight without harming your skin’s appearance. Even mild redness and a tan can indicate sun damage.

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