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How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

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Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the clouds. The American Academy of Dermatology and McFarland Clinic Dermatology have tips and information to practice safe sun.

Dangers of sun exposure

It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that can cause cancer - UVA and UVB rays. Overexposure to these types of rays can lead to skin cancer. When outside, follow these three steps to keep your skin safe:

  1. Seek Shade. Seek shade, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest.
  2. Dress to protect your skin. Wear sun-protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) number on the label.
  3. Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen plays a key role in protecting your skin from the sun.

Who needs sunscreen?

Everyone needs sunscreen. Regardless of age, gender, or race, everyone is at risk for skin cancer.

How to select a sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen that is:

  • Broad-spectrum - protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 or higher - which indicates how well a sunscreen protects you from a sunburn.
  • Water-resistant or very water-resistant - for up to 40 or 80 minutes.

How to apply sunscreen and how often?

Sunscreen should be worn every day if you will be outside. Use extra caution around water, snow, and sand as they can reflect the sun’s harmful rays. 

  1. Apply sunscreen before going outdoors. It takes about 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you.
  2. Apply enough sunscreen. About 1 ounce is needed to fully cover your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin.
  3. Apply sunscreen to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet, and legs. If you have thin hair or if areas of your scalp are exposed to the sun, wear a hat or use sunscreen (e.g. SunBum Scalp and Hair Mist SPF 30).
  4. Reapply sunscreen every hour when swimming or sweating; otherwise, reapply every 4 hours.

Sunscreen for lips

Remember to protect your lips by applying a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 (e.g. Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Blam or Elta MB Lip Balm).

Sunscreen for babies and kids

Parents should avoid exposing babies younger than 6 months to the sun’s rays. The best way to protect infants from the sun is to keep them in the shade as much as possible. Minimize sunscreen use on children younger than 6 months old, and when using sunscreen on infants and toddlers, choose one with active ingredients of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

Tagged As: Prevention and Wellness

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