1. What actually is SPF and how does it help?
SPF is short for sun protection factor and it is based on how much longer it would take to get a burn with wearing sunscreens vs. not wearing sunscreen.
2. How does sun damage affect the skin?
Sun damage starts a process called photo-aging. With sun exposure the skin must respond to protect itself by making more melanin. This is why we get tan. Chronic sun exposure causes the skin to become damaged through various mechanisms. The oxidative stress caused by the sun breaks down collagen. A protein that gives skin it’s strength. This causes wrinkles and causes the skin to become more lax. Chronic sun exposure can also cause solar lentigines, or small light brown spots, to form/appear. In addition, it increases the DNA damage to your skin cells and eventually can lead to skin cancer. Intense intermittent sun exposure, ie. burns, can also do this, but quicker.
3. Why is it important to wear it every day?
Depending on skin types, wearing spf is very important for preventing skin cancer and the aging process. Darker skin types are more naturally protected, whereas lighter skin types are less shielded.
4. A lot of people would comment that they work indoors and aren’t exposed to the sun, so SPF isn’t necessary on a daily basis. How would you respond to that?
In the summer and spring it is a good idea to wear spf on the face on a daily basis. Being indoors doesn’t not protect you as lights emit ultraviolet (UV) energy. Also, windows do not block out the sun or protect you from UV radiation which is the cause for sun damage.
5. What about obtaining vitamin D from the sun? Does SPF hinder this at all?
Yes, spf does hinder the conversion of vitamin D to its active form. However in the summer and spring, for most people putting their hand in the sun for 15 minutes (one hand) is enough vitamin D conversion for an entire month. So wearing spf on ones face will not hinder getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is important! And it’s levels are related to sun, our diets, and how it is absorbed in our bodies. In the winter, since we do not get the same exposure, I recommend getting checked for vitamin D levels. And if it’s low, not to wear spf every day on the face during winter months and go take supplements.
About Dr. Lodha:
Dr. Lodha attended NYU School of Medicine where he was elected into the medical school honor society and later received the Marion B. Sulzberger Dermatology award. During his time at NYU, Dr. Lodha was involved in many research projects and also received the most outstanding dermatology research award at the national student research forum in 2007. After completing his internship in internal medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, he attended Drexel University for his residency in dermatology. At Drexel, Dr. Lodha had the honor of serving as chief resident for the department. He returned to New York to embark on his dermatology career and joined the clinical faculty at Columbia University’s Department of Dermatology in 2013. At Columbia, Dr. Lodha serves as a clinical instructor and is actively involved in didactics and resident preceptorship.
Dr. Lodha is a diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. He has been published in a variety of medical journals and has particular interests in melanoma, auto-immune diseases of the skin and aesthetic dermatology. Find him at his practice, Pura Dermatology,
in New York City!