As the warm summer months approach, it’s important to remember some critical facts about using your sunscreen. Not all sunscreen products are created equal.
Fortunately, in 2013 the FDA required sunscreen manufacturers to include some new facts about their products on the label. Although all sunscreens help prevent sunburn, only those with an SPF of 15 or higher and with broad spectrum protection (blocking both UVB and UVA rays from the sun) can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and signs of premature aging of the skin. Dermatologists recommend a product with at least an SPF of 30, because when used properly, this will block up to 97 percent of the sun’s harmful rays.
Additionally, a sunscreen can no longer claim to be “waterproof” or “sweatproof” as no product truly is. Instead, a “water-resistant” sunscreen will protect you up to 80 minutes in the water before needing another application. It’s good practice to always re-apply any sunscreen every two hours when out in the sun.
Sunscreen is safe. There were recent “quasi-scientific” studies questioning the safety of some products in sunscreen. The overwhelming consensus in the medical community is that sunscreen is safe to use, and when used correctly, has a scientifically proven track record of minimizing the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
Despite which product is chosen, a sunscreen must be used correctly to enjoy its full benefits. Follow these three steps when applying your sunscreen to help get the maximum protection:
- Make sure you use enough of it to thoroughly coat all exposed surfaces. Generally, a recommended amount is about one ounce of sunscreen, or roughly a shot-glass full, to exposed skin surfaces. People tend to apply much less than this quantity.
- It’s best to apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes prior to going outside and always reapply every two hours during extended outdoor activities.
- Use sunscreen every day as 80 percent of the sun’s damaging UV rays will still penetrate clouds and fog.
This blog post was contributed by Dr. Paul Martinelli, a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs micrographic surgeon, on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.