True or false: We should slather on sunscreen even during winter months. That answer is true. In fact, sunscreen should be worn all yearlong. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancers are on the rise. Moreover, one out of every five Americans will get skin cancer at some point in their lives. The risk of developing skin cancer usually is directly related to the amount and intensity of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure a person receives from the sun. But, with this handy information at your fingertips, you will be better able to make decision on the right sunscreen for you. In other words, your job of selecting the right sunscreen may have just become a lot easier. Let’s begin!
Adoring the Sun
1. Who doesn’t enjoy vegging out in the sun on a hot summer day? The kind of sunscreen you use may vary depending on the type of outdoor exposure you are expecting. For minimal sun exposure, such as when you are outside only for minutes at a time, a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 is usually sufficient.
2. You may have heard of broad spectrum protection before. Well, your sunscreen should have broad spectrum protection, which means it effectively protects against significant portions of both the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) ranges of the light spectrum. Most broad-spectrum formulas contain multiple sunscreen ingredients. For prolonged, intense exposure to the sun, you should use a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Why? SPF 30 filters out up to 97 percent of the sun’s UV radiation; SPF 50 filters out up to 98 percent.
3. Know your skin type. Do you have dry skin? Are you concerned about protecting a child’s skin from potentially harmful rays? Or do you have allergy-, acne- or rosacea-prone skin? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then consider these options:
- Dry skin can greatly benefit from moisturizing sunscreens. As an aside: Numerous moisturizers are used in sunscreens; popular ones include lanolin, oils, and silicones such as dimethicone. Moisturizing sunscreens are often formulated as creams, lotions or ointments, so look for these terms on the label.
- Chemicals can irritate children’s skin because their skin is so delicate. Some ingredients, which include PABA and oxybenzone, have been linked to skin reactions. Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, because they tend to be better tolerated by people with sensitive skin and can usually be found in sunscreens that are manufactured for babies and children. If you opt for spray sunscreens, you should not apply sunscreen directly to the face; sprays should be misted into the hands, then spread on the face.
- Patients with allergy-prone skin or conditions such as acne or rosacea should avoid products containing preservatives, fragrances, alcohol and products containing PABA or oxybenzone because these skin conditions can become exacerbated by the use of such products.
Enjoying the Rays
With work and other obligations, there sometimes are not enough hours in the day to enjoy the sunshine. However, there are many ways that you can select a sunscreen. If you are not sure which sunscreen is right for you, you can speak with your doctor, dermatologist or pharmacist.