It’s time to slather on that sunscreen again with the warm summer weather upon us. You don’t want to go without it as skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause wrinkles, sunburns and skin cancer.
A sunburn is the first acute thing that sunscreens help prevent, then aging of the skin and pre-cancers and cancers. Harmful rays from the sun generally peak from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. but they can work on your skin during all daylight hours. The areas of your body that are most prone to pre-aging and pre-cancers are the head, neck and back of the hands.
Choosing a Sunscreen
It used to be that we’d just look for a high SPF (sunscreen protection factor) rating and buy it. Now there are so many products on the market. Sunscreen comes in creams, gels and sprays.
The three things you need to look for on product labels are the SPF rating, ‘broad spectrum’ and water resistance.
If you’re outside for more than two hours, choose an SPF 30 or higher. This is ample protection for the majority of people. You may have skin sensitivities that require a higher SPF. If you’re in doubt talk to your doctor or one of our Heart pharmacists to assist you in making the selection that is right for you.
If you see ‘broad spectrum’ on the label this means the sunscreen is effective against both UVB (skin burning) rays and UVA (skin aging) rays. Broad spectrum sunscreens give you more protection.
No sunscreen is waterproof but some are water-resistant. This resistance will only last for 40 - 80 minutes, depending upon the product. You’ll still need to reapply it when you are in and out of the water.
How to Apply Sunscreen
Check expiration dates on your sunscreen. Active ingredients can deteriorate over time. Exposure to heat can also hamper effectiveness so don’t store sunscreen in your glove compartment or the trunk of your car.
Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside. Reapply every two hours. When reapplying, let it soak into your skin for several minutes before diving back into the water. If you don’t, the sunscreen will wash right off and you’ll have no protection whatsoever.
Put your sunscreen on even when it’s cloudy or hazy. Those harmful rays can still penetrate so protect your skin every day during the summer months. Take a pass on rainy days!
Kids and Sunscreen
Never put sunscreen on kids under six months of age because their skin absorbs it too easily and it could cause harm.
There are many sunscreen products for kids older than six months. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients that are less likely to irritate the skin. The important thing is to be vigilant about applying it. Bad sunburns early in life have been cited as contributors to adult skin cancer.
Sunscreen shouldn’t be your only defense against sun damage. Don’t forget your sunglasses, hat and protective clothing. Enjoy the sunshine but protect yourself and those you love.