July 22, 2014
2 min read

Best practices for sunscreen use

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It is ideal to wear sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful rays can penetrate the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Elements like snow, sand and water reflect the sun’s rays and increase the need for sunscreen.

When choosing a sunscreen product, not all bottles are created equal. Those with broad-spectrum, water-proof protection, coverage against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF (sun protection factor) level of 30 or higher are recommended by the American Cancer Society.

Creams are best for dry skin and the face, whereas gels are good for hairy areas such as scalp and male chest, and sticks are convenient for around the eyes and the lips. There are also sunscreens for sensitive skin and ones specifically for children.

Be sure to use and apply sunscreen properly. The lotion, gel, spray or cream should be applied generously, and special care should be taken with the face, ears, neck, and other areas not covered by clothing. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure so the product is fully absorbed into the skin.

Spray sunscreens for children recently have come under fire, as parents are concerned that accidental inhalation may be dangerous. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating any potential harm. As an alternative, spray the sunscreen on your hand and then apply the product to your child.

Sunscreens can be applied to toddlers and infants 6 months or older but should only be applied to skin not covered by clothing.

Be mindful that sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every 2 hours to maintain protection. Additionally, going into the ocean or pool, or excessive sweating can affect sunscreen potency, so reapply often.

Most sunscreens last for 2 to 3 years. It may be necessary to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.

It is important to keep in mind that not all UV rays are blocked with sunscreen. Other tips to avoid sun damage include seeking shade, wearing protective clothing including sunglasses and a hat, and avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends “checking your ‘birthday suit’ on your birthday,” and seeking a dermatologist if you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding. When caught early, skin cancer is very treatable.