Are you sun smart?…Ask a Dermatologist

With sunny summer days ahead, sunscreen is probably on your mind. Dermatologists are always getting questions from patients about SPF usage. Use their answers to help prepare you for a summer full of safe fun in the sun.

Is a high-number SPF better than a low-number one? A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above will block 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. It is important to remember that high-number SPFs last the same amount of time on the skin as a low-number SPF and does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication. Sunscreens should be reapplied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days. 

Why do I need a broad-spectrum SPF? The two basic types of ultraviolet rays are UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays can produce sunburn while also playing the biggest role in causing skin cancer, they cause premature aging of the skin. You want a sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” to protect your skin from both UVB and UVA damage.

How much sunscreen should I apply? Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body and about 1/2 a teaspoon to cover the face. 

If my makeup has SPF in it, do I still need to apply sunscreen to my face? Unless the makeup is being applied in a thick layer, it doesn’t block ultraviolet radiation effectively enough. “You still need to apply an SPF under your makeup. Or you can use a mineral powder formulated sunscreen on top of your makeup,” says Dr. Rachel Nazarian. 

What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens? Both formulas are proven to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of sun damage and skin cancer. “Chemical sunscreens act like a 

sponge, absorbing the ultraviolet rays,” says Dr. Deborah Spey. “Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and reflect the rays, shading and physically shielding the skin from harmful UV.” 

If I’m wearing a mask, do I still need to wear sunscreen on my face? Dr. Rina Allawh says: “With wearing masks, many of my patients are feeling as though they do not need sunscreen daily– this is in fact not true. Though masks do provide a layer of protection most masks do not contain “UPF” which stands for UV protective factor. Despite wearing a mask, it is important to still protect your entire face with sunscreen.” 

Should I be worried about the ingredients in my sunscreen? According to Dr. Nazarian: “Many people die from preventable skin cancers every day, which could be avoided with diligent and appropriate application of sunscreen. The evidence supporting safety in sunscreen is increasingly reassuring. With any product, some ingredients may be less tolerable in people who have sensitive skin, but these ingredients are beautifully tolerated by most people and allow the product to be cosmetically elegant and applied smoothly.” 
Who should get an annual skin exam? 
Regular skin cancer screenings should start in your 20s. However, if you spend a lot of time in the sun; have a family history of skin cancer; or have moles, you should be checked sooner.

July 14, 2021

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