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Fast Facts About Sunscreen
Summer means lots of outdoor activities. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers the following facts about sunscreen – in any season:
- Everyone needs sunscreen to protect against ultraviolet (UV) rays, even on cloudy days. Skin cancer afflicts about one in five Americans at some point and does not discriminate based on age, gender or race.
- The best sunscreen is at least SPF 30, water resistant, and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- In addition to using sunscreen, you should stay in the shade when the sun’s rays are the strongest, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; wear protective clothing; be careful around reflective surfaces like water, snow or sand; never use tanning beds; and monitor your skin for any changes.
- Sunscreen may limit the amount of vitamin D your skin produces. However, you can get additional vitamin D through a healthy diet or vitamin supplements.
- Apply sunscreen liberally 15 minutes before going outside and cover all exposed skin. Commonly missed spots include the feet, neck, ears, scalp and lips. Reapply at least every two hours and more frequently if swimming or sweating.
- Sunscreens that are combined with moisturizers or cosmetics can be convenient, but reapply these products at least every two hours for complete protection.
- Spray sunscreen is easy to apply, but make sure that you cover all exposed skin. Spray sunscreens are not covered by current FDA regulations on testing and standardization. Do not inhale spray sunscreen or use it near a flame.
- Different forms of sunscreens work best for different body parts. Creams are good for the face and dry skin, while gels are best for hairy areas. Sticks work well around the eyes.
- Avoid sunscreens combined with insect repellent. The AAD recommends using these protects separately.
- The sun produces two types of harmful rays. UVA (aging) rays lead to wrinkles and age spots. These rays can penetrate window glass. UVB (burning) rays cannot penetrate window glass. These rays are the main cause of sunburns.
- SPF 30 sunscreens block 97 percent of UVB rays. While higher SPFs block a marginally higher percentage, no sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UVB rays. And using a higher SPF does not mean you can spend longer outside without reapplying.
- Babies under 6 months should avoid sun exposure and sunscreen use. If they must be in the sun, keep them well covered with long sleeves, pants, hats and sunglasses. Give them plenty of fluids, and take them inside if they appear red or fussy. You can use sunscreen with children older than 6 months, following the instructions on the label.
- Sunscreens maintain their potency for at least 3 years. Changes in color or consistency of the sunscreen are good indicators that it should be discarded.
- If you get a sunburn, treat it with a cool bath, moisturizers, hydrocortisone cream, aspirin or ibuprofen, and drink extra water. In extreme cases, your skin may blister. Blisters should be allowed to heal untouched, but if the blisters are very large or you have chills, headache or fever, seek medical attention.