There is a wide variety of sunscreens available, including lotions, sprays, creams, gels, wipes, and lip balms, to name a few. These topical products absorb or reflect some, but not all, of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin to help protect against sun damage. But which one is right for you? Our practice can help you find the best sunscreen for your needs and lifestyle.
SPF - what's in a number?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) provides an indication of how effectively a sunscreen can protect your skin from the ultraviolet-B (UVB) light - the rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. A higher SPF number represents a higher level of protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen products with a sun protection factor of at least 30.
Today, sunscreens with SPFs as high as 100 are available, but a higher number doesn't necessarily mean more protection. For instance, many people believe a sunscreen with SPF 45 would give 3 times as much protection as one with an SPF of 15. This is not true. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%. SPF 50 sunscreens filter approximately 98% while SPF 100 provides 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. No sunscreen can provide complete protection.
Apply Sunscreen Properly
Regardless of the SPF rating, sunscreen should be reapplied often for optimal protection. A majority of people do not apply a layer of sunscreen thickly, so the actual protection they get is less. For best results, most sunscreens must be reapplied at least every two hours, more often if you are swimming or sweating. Apply sunscreen generously, paying close attention to face, ears, arms, neck and all other areas exposed to the sun. Sunscreens do expire, so always check the expiration date to make sure it is still effective.
Too much exposure to sunlight can be harmful to your skin. Dangerous ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays damage skin, which leads to premature wrinkles, skin cancer and other skin problems. People with excessive exposure to UV radiation are at greater risk for skin cancer than those who take careful precautions to protect their skin from the sun.
Sun Exposure Linked to Cancer
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma. To limit your exposure to UV rays, follow these easy steps.
- Avoid the mid-day sun, as the sun's rays are most intense during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Remember that clouds do not block UV rays.
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand.
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps which emit UVA and UVB rays.
- Wear hats and protective clothing when possible to minimize your body's exposure to the sun.
- Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to your exposed skin. Re-apply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and area around your eyes.
Everyone's skin can be affected by UV rays. People with fair skin run a higher risk of sunburns. Aside from skin tone, factors that may increase your risk for sun damage and skin cancer include:
- Previously treated for cancer
- Family history of skin cancer
- Several moles
- Typically burn before tanning
- Blond, red or light brown hair
If you detect unusual moles, spots or changes in your skin, or if your skin easily bleeds, make an appointment with our practice. Changes in your skin may be a sign of skin cancer. With early detection from your dermatologist, skin cancers have a high cure rate and response to treatment. Additionally, if you want to reduce signs of aged skin, seek the advice of your dermatologist for a variety of skin-rejuvenating treatment options.
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