Memorial Day is the official start of summer. About this time of year I get a lot of questions about sunscreens from my patients. Here is a summary of what you should know in selecting a sunscreen.
Q. What is the difference between UVB and UVA?
- · UVB causes sunburn and promotes skin cancer.
- · UVA penetrates the skin more deeply and contributes to wrinkling, brown spots and also promotes skin cancer. (This is the type of light used in tanning salons and is not safe. Use of tanning salons has been associated with an increase in the diagnosis of melanoma in young women under age 35.)
Q. What sunscreen do you recommend?
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers the following:
- o Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays).
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or greater.
o Water resistance.
- No sunscreen can fully protect you. I also recommend to my patients you seek shade when your shadow is shorter than you are and protect your skin by wearing long sleeves and hats
Q. Is there anything new on the market?
- The newest sun products are multitasking beauty balms which marry broad spectrum sun protection with anti-aging ingredients, moisturizer and even a tint to even out skin color. These products are great for busy people. My own skincare line includes a daily product with SPF 45, moisturizer as well as green tea and other antioxidants for skin repair
Q. How much sunscreen should I use, and how often should I apply it?
- To be sure you use enough, follow this guideline:
- o One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size.
- o Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen.
- Re-apply sunscreen approximately every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily according to the directions on the bottle.
Q. What type of sunscreen should I use?
- The kind of sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice, and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected. Available sunscreen options include lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks and sprays. There are even sunscreens for special purposes such as sensitive skin or babies.
- Most sunscreens use chemicals to absorb ultraviolet rays and prevent them from damaging the skin. Avobenzone and oxybenzone are examples. Both are safe ingredients despite reports to the contrary. Non-chemical or “natural” sunscreens contain particles that physically block the sun’s rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are examples of physical blocks. These ingredients are recommended for sensitive skin
Q. Will using sunscreen limit the amount of vitamin D I get?
- Using sunscreen may decrease your skin’s production of vitamin D.
- If you are concerned that your vitamin D is low, your doctor can do a blood test and if necessary recommend a program of vitamin D supplements. This will give you the vitamin D you need without increasing your skin cancer risk