Your Guide to Summer Skin Care
Walk down any pharmacy or department store’s sun care aisle and you’re likely to be overwhelmed by the number of options available. SPF ranging from 2 to 100+. Lotions, gels, creams, sticks, sprays. Maybe you should pick a “natural” sunscreen? Should you be avoiding added fragrances because of eczema or sensitive skin? The best has to be the SPF 100 bottle for $30, right?
Why use sun protection at all? Each sunburn damages skin cells and mutates DNA, which increases your risk of skin cancer. Just five sunburns during childhood increases your risk of melanoma by 80%. This damage also contributes to early skin aging...and sunburns hurt!
What is SPF?
It stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF is a measurement of the sunscreen’s protection from damaging UV sun rays. SPF 15-30 is considered enough, as numbers above this are not thought to reduce risk by much more. It is important to look for broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. UVA and UVB are two types of UV rays that can damage our skin, even when we are not getting burned.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of chemicals in sunscreen. There are several chemicals for which the FDA has requested more studies evaluating their effect on humans, because there are inconclusive safety findings in small studies. They have not determined that these chemicals are unsafe, and still encourage regular use of sunscreen. There are two compounds in sunscreens the FDA does consider definitely safe—zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide—which also are considered safer for sensitive skin. The American Academy of Dermatology and Skin Cancer Foundation still encourage use of any broad-spectrum sunscreen when going into the sun, as currently the benefits of preventing skin cancer outweigh any risks.
- Sunscreen should be used daily when outside more than a few minutes, for even dark skin types and everyone 6 months and older.
- Pick sunscreen rated SPF 30 with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
- You likely need more than you think - adults typically need 1 oz, or the amount a shot glass would hold, to cover their body.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. Use water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
- Choose products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients for young children, or those with sensitive skin.
- Although more convenient, beware the spray, which can sometimes cause streaky protection, especially when applied in windy conditions.
- Avoid sun exposure between peak hours of sun intensity (10 AM - 2 PM), and wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Pick lenses that state they block 99-100% of those UVA and UVB rays.
- Do not use tanning beds, which send damaging UV rays directly to unprotected skin.
- If you or your child does get a sunburn, get out of the sun as soon as possible. Apply cool compresses or take a cool bath or shower. Keep skin moisturized—aloe gel or aloe-containing products are popular for their cooling effect. Ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain. Be sure to stay hydrated, as bad burns can cause dehydration.
- Check skin monthly for new or evolving skin moles or growths.
Don’t let the fear of the burn stop your family from staying active this summer! Be diligent with these sun protection measures to prevent burns and reduce future risk of skin cancer. Call your provider if you have a severe blistering burn or notice a strange mole on your skin.
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