Another post by Dr. Samantha Weiss, who is clearly ready for the warmer weather of summer!
School is almost over and when that school bell rings for dismissal in mid-June children will start engaging in either sports or summer camp as well as numerous outdoor activities. We encourage children to engage in outdoor activities and sports, we tend to spend more time, money and energy finding that one sunscreen/block that works best. Adolescents are sometimes much more resistant to applying sunblock because the sun exposure during the day will usually result in the perfect golden brown tan. While being tan may increase one’s self-esteem or mood, constant exposure to the sun unprotected could be too big of a gamble. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin damage which in the long run can lead to cancer. Skin cancer is becoming far more common especially in adolescents.
One of the more effective ways to prevent skin damage or even skin cancer is to stay out of the sun entirely, however that is not practical. The bottom line is if you are going to enjoy outdoor activities you must wear sunscreen. Sunscreen acts by absorbing or reflecting the sun’s rays. There certain things one should look for in a sunscreen before purchasing it.
The most important component is the sun protection factor better know as SPF. This refers to the amount of protection the sunscreen will give you or how much longer one can spend exposed to the sun before you get sunburned compared to if you were not wearing sunscreen. For example, say you could stay exposed to sun for 30 minutes without burning. If you were to apply a sunscreen that had an SPF of 15 you would be able to stay exposed to the sun for 15 times longer – roughly seven and a half hours before burning. The SPF on a sunscreen bottle only relates to the UVB rays, there is currently no rating system for UVA protection. A sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 is said to block ninety-three percent of the UVB rays, an SPF of 30 blocks ninety-seven percent and an SPF of 50 blocks ninety-eight percent of the UVB rays. As one can see there is not a large percent of difference in the protection when you compare the SPF of 15 to the SPF of 30. Using an SPF of either 15 or 30 will give you roughly the same amount of protection, however the key is making sure you reapply at least every two hours. If your skin is more sensitive to sun exposure and you burn quickly, you should reapply more frequently.
Another key component to a decent sunscreen is one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate into the deepest layer of your skin, while the UVB rays do not penetrate as deep. Both rays are responsible for causing damage to the skin. Too much exposure to both the UVA and UVB rays can increase the likelihood of skin cancer. Make sure that labels of the sunscreen bottle states that it is broad-spectrum coverage. The sunscreen should also contain the combination of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octyl salicytate, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
You should also look for sunscreens that are labeled “water resistant” or “sweat-resistant.” A water-resistant sunscreen should maintain its SPF for as long as 40 minutes underwater as long as it is not rubbed off. Water-proof sunscreens do not exist because if you submerge your body in water for a long enough period of time the sunscreen will wear off at some point.
There are many types of sunscreen: lotions, creams, sticks and most recently sprays. Out of the above types pick the one that is easiest to use for you. Studies have shown that the least amount one can apply and be full protected is an ounce and that needs to be reapplied at least every two hours if not more. You also need to think of the activity that you or your children will be engaging in. Take swimming, for example, if you are constantly rubbing a towel on the skin in order to dry off you are also rubbing the sunscreen off making it less effective so reapplication maybe more frequent.
Knowing all this, it can still be confusing to go to the store and look at row after row of sunscreens. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done it’s homework and rated various brands based upon the safety and efficacy of the of ingredients used. Click here to go the the EWG’s report.
Hopefully the above facts will make finding the perfect sunscreen a little easier. Lip balm with SPF is also something that should be applied. Sunscreen should be applied even if it appears extremely cloudy out, the sun’s rays can pass through the clouds. If you have any further questions regarding this topic or any other health concerns that you would like to address, please visit our website at www.apmt.us or call our office to set up an appointment with one of our doctors.