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Sunscreen & Protecting Your Skin

Author: Massage Heights
Woman putting on sunscreen

Who should apply sunscreen?

To put it simply, everyone needs sunscreen! Sunscreen has the ability to help prevent skin cancer by protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Because anyone can get skin cancer, and it’s estimated that one in five Americans will, everyone should protect their skin from the sun. In addition to skin cancer, sunscreen can prevent the effects of skin aging, like age spots and wrinkles that develop from too much UV exposure.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen that has broad-spectrum protection, meaning it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, sunscreen should be 30 SPF or higher and water-resistant.

How often should sunscreen be used?

If you are outside, you should use sunscreen every day. Even when it’s cloudy, as much as 80% of the sun’s rays can break through the clouds and affect your skin.

Make sure to continue to apply sunscreen even when you are in snowy or sandy conditions as well as when you are near water. These kinds of surfaces can reflect the sun’s light and increase the risk of sunburn.

How often should I reapply sunscreen and how much do I need?

  • Make sure to apply enough sunscreen to give all exposed skin good coverage. Most adults need approximately 1 ounce of sunscreen to provide adequate coverage for their skin.

  • Put on sunscreen 15 minutes before you are exposed to sunlight

  • Don’t forget to protect your lips by using lip products that contain 30 SPF sunscreen or stronger.

  • When spending extended time outside, it’s best to reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours. You should also reapply sunscreen after sweating or swimming.

Is there a difference between UVA and UVB rays?

The sun emits two kinds of rays - UVA rays and UVB rays. If your skin is overexposed to either type of ray it can cause skin cancer to develop.

UVA rays can also cause your skin to age prematurely by creating age spots and wrinkles. Keep in mind these rays can also pass through windows.

UVB rays are the main culprit of sunburn, but these rays are blocked by windows.

What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?

Common chemical sunscreens absorb the rays from the sun. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreen are typically avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, octisalate, octinoxate, and homosalate. These types of sunscreen are easier to rub into skin while avoiding residue.

Physical sunscreens sit on top of your skin to deflect rays from the sun. These sunscreens contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. If your skin is sensitive, this type of sunscreen can be a good fit for you. Chemical sunscreen will likely leave residue on your skin, but there are also tinted options to help it blend in.

If you are concerned about different ingredients in sunscreen you can choose the formulas that work best for you. As long as your sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection, and is water-resistant with 30 SPH or higher, your sunscreen will protect your skin.

Is an SPF higher than 30 better?

Generally, dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 because it blocks about 97% of UVB rays. While a sunscreen with a higher SPF will block slightly more UVB rays, there is not a sunscreen that will block 100% of UVB rays.

Contrary to some myths it’s also important to note that just because a sunscreen has a higher SPF does not mean it will last longer than 30 SPF. You still need to reapply any kind of sunscreen approximately every two hours when outdoors or after swimming or sweating.

Do I need to buy new sunscreen every year?

If you apply sunscreen every day when you are outside as recommended, using the correct amount, a bottle will likely not last a long time. If you do come across a bottle that has not been used in a while here are some guidelines to remember:

  • The FDA requires sunscreen to keep its strength for at least three years.

  • Some sunscreen brands will print an expiration date on the bottles. If this date has passed, do not use the sunscreen. If your sunscreen does not have an expiration date write the date of purchase on the bottle so you will know when it is no longer good to use.

  • Sometimes sunscreen has visible signs that it is no longer safe to use such as a change in consistency or color.

Does sunscreen negatively impact the amount of Vitamin D I receive from the sun?

Research shows consistent sunscreen use is unlikely to minimize your skin’s vitamin D production. It is wise to focus on receiving vitamin D from sources other than the sun since sun exposure can sometimes be inconsistent. The AAD recommends making sure your diet includes vitamin D rich foods or vitamin D supplements.