USE SUNSCREEN WITH SPF 30 TO 50
Don’t be fooled by shade or a cloudy day. While most people feel safer in a shaded area, the truth is that the shade on a cloudy day or shade on exposed skin under a broad brimmed hat, umbrella or awning blocks only 30-60% of UV-A and UV-B rays (equivalent to SPF from 1.5 to 3). Therefore although standing or sitting in shade is preferable to being exposed to direct sunlight, protective clothing and sunscreen are still needed even in the shade or on a cloudy day. The sun protection factor (SPF) only applies to UV-B. SPF lets people know how much time they can have UV-B exposure when wearing the sunscreen comparable to not wearing the sunscreen. For example a person with fair skin who takes 10 minutes to get a sunburn mid-day in June without sunscreen protection will take 150 minutes to get the same burn when wearing a generous amount of SPF 15 sunscreen. However people may still be getting a large amount of UV-A unless they are wearing sunscreen containing UV-A protective ingredients.
The FDA is working on ways to measure UV-A protection, to be called Protection Factor A (PFA), but this is not currently available. Physical blocking agents, including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, block UV-A and are now more cosmetically acceptable since they no longer leave a thick white residue. Look for sunscreens with 30 to 50 SPF for UV-B and with ingredients to protect against UV-A.
Most sunscreen ingredients are broken down by ultraviolet light as it absorbs this energy. The exceptions are Mexoryl, Zinc Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide (which reflect rather than absorb Ultraviolet) and Avobenzone and Oxybenzone stabilized with Helioplex.
APPLY SUNSCREEN GENEROUSLY BEFORE GOING OUTDOORS
Apply sunscreen generously before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn.
Use enough sunscreen. Most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount you can hold in your palm, to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin.
Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.
Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected, or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating. People who get sunburned usually didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product. Your skin is exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you are on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen. For more skin cancer prevention tips, see a board-certified dermatologist.
People who get sunburned usually didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.
HOW TO SELECT A SUNSCREEN
Sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against skin cancer.
The American Academy of Dermaology recommends choosing a sunscreen which states on the label:
SPF 30 or higher
Broad spectrum – A sunscreen that protects skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can cause cancer.
Water Resistant for up to 80 minutes. Sunscreen can no longer claim to be waterproof or sweat proof.
USING SUNSCREEN DOES NOT INCREASE SKIN CANCER
Studies showing that sunscreen use increases skin cancer are wrong. People who use sunscreen regularly and have the same sun exposure as unprotected individuals have fewer precancers and skin cancers as well as fewer wrinkles, fine blood vessels and dark spots.