Sunscreen Basics - PIH Health

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Published on May 12, 2016

Sunscreen Basics

mom putting sunscreen on boy

mom putting sunscreen on boyAs spring and summer roll around and we start to spend more days and hours outside, we need to protect our skin. “One in five Americans will develop skin cancer; that is an alarming statistic,” says Dr. Scherschun. “Yet we can lower our risk of skin cancer just by wearing sunscreen.”

So, let’s make things easy:

Fact #1: There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens use synthetic ingredients to help the skin filter harmful rays. Physical sunscreens (also known as sunblocks) are made with natural minerals to reflect away harmful rays.

Fact #2: Broad-spectrum sunscreens help protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And, although they may be water-resistant, they are not waterproof.

  • UVA rays cause the skin to age more quickly; they penetrate deeper into the dermis and break down collagen thus increasing wrinkles and brown spots.
  • UVB rays affect the top layers of skin cells where sunburns and cancer are formed. 

Fact #3: Even on cloudy days, about 80 percent of the sun’s damaging rays get through. On days with a moderate to high UV index, you should protect yourself with sunscreen plus hats and long sleeves.

Fact #4: EVERYONE needs to wear sunscreen. Fair or dark, young or old, sun damage affects everyone.

Now, let’s go over some rules (easy ones):

Rule #1: Always wear sunscreen.

Rule #2: Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 40 to 80 minutes depending on what you’re doing (exercising, swimming, sweating, etc).

Rule #3: Avoid being in the sun during days with a moderate to high UV index (anything over 2) as well as during peak hours, 10 am to 4 pm. Avoid outdoor activity on days with a UV index of 11+ altogether, if possible.

Rule #4: EVERYONE needs to wear sunscreen. (Yes, this is the same as Fact #3, but it warrants being repeated.)

Rule #5: An Ounce goes a long way.

That’s all you really need to cover exposed skin and help protect it—a shot glass of sunscreen. Sunscreens effectiveness does expire though. It generally lasts up to three years. But, if you’re protecting your skin, as you should be, it shouldn’t last that long anyway.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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