Everyone knows you are supposed to wear sunscreen, especially during the hotter months while you’re outside, but you may not understand why it is important to protect your skin from the sun. As the weather heats up, we want to take the time to educate our patients on the importance of using sunscreen.
Why should you wear sunscreen?
Sunscreen works to protect your skin from harmful UV exposure, and this means aside from preventing you from getting burnt, sunscreen can provide additional benefits such as reducing your risk of skin cancer. Used consistently and daily, sunscreen is proven to significantly lower your risk of developing cancerous cells as UV radiation is the top contributing factor in causing skin cancer. Another added benefit is that sunscreen also prevents premature signs of aging. Over time, constant UV exposure can lead to the premature breakdown of collagen, elastin, and skin cells which can result in wrinkles, sun spots, discoloration, and a worn appearance.
Who should use sunscreen?
The sun affects everyone. We recommend that anyone over the age of six months use sunscreen daily. Even if you don’t burn or tan, it is important to protect your skin every day. Children under the age of six months have highly sensitive skin and should stay out of the sun, use shaded structures, and sun-protective clothing. Remember to ensure they drink plenty of fluids and avoid becoming overheated.
What type of sunscreen should you use?
The best type of sunscreen is the one you are most likely to use again and again. Any sunscreen is acceptable if it offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, has an SPF of 30 or higher, and is water-resistant. There are a variety of sunscreens available to purchase and they come in lotions, creams, gels, wax sticks, and sprays. Some products are even formulated for specific purposes like sensitive skin and children.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number refers to how long it would take for the rays to redden your skin when using sunscreen as directed compared to the amount it would take without any sunscreen. So, a product with SPF 15 would take you 15x longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing any at all. However, even if you use a product with an SPF rating remember to reapply every 2 hours and wear sunglasses, protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat when possible.
It is important to note that there is no research to support that sunscreen ingredients are toxic to humans. The FDA did recently issue a rule which asks for companies to provide more data about several ingredients, but that does not mean they are unsafe or that you should stop using sunscreen.
When should you use sunscreen?
We recommend applying sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside to allow the product time to activate. To get the most out of your sunscreen, we suggest you apply one ounce of product to your entire body. If you are going outside most of the day, even if it is overcast and cloudy, reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessively exercising. Any areas that are going to be exposed to the sun should be protected. This includes your ears, back of the neck, feet, hands, and behind your knees.
Does sunscreen expire?
The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years, however, if you are using sunscreen daily you should replace your bottle frequently. Some sunscreens do list an expiration date, but if you purchase one that doesn’t have one, write the date you bought it on the bottle so you know when to throw it out. If your sunscreen is expired, you will notice obvious changes to the color and consistency.
How To Care For Sunburn
If you do become sunburnt, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Just like traditional burn trauma, sunburns are graded on the level of damage to your skin. If you notice blisters or signs of discharge from the blisters this most likely is a serious burn and it is important to seek immediate medical attention. However, if your skin is only red or pink on the surface, home remedies and rest will soothe your pain and heal the damage.
Start with these home remedies to treat your sunburn:
- Anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce swelling and discomfort
- Apply a cold damp compress to chill the skin and alleviate the burning sensation
- Drink plenty of water and fluids to keep yourself hydrated
- Take cool baths to soothe the burn
- Use creams and ointments containing menthol, camphor, or aloe to relieve pain and hydrate the area. Refrigerating the creams will also provide additional relief
With any sunburn, avoid exposing the sunburnt area to the sun while your skin heals and covering the area while outside.
Choosing a sunscreen can be overwhelming with all the different options but remember to choose a product that is broad-spectrum and contains enough SPF to protect your skin throughout the day. For more information on protecting your skin from the sun or to schedule a consultation, contact Sullivan Dermatology today.