Tips to Protect Yourself from Ultraviolet Rays
- Stay out of the sun between 11 am and 3 pm.
- Wear sunglasses; UV rays can hurt the eyes.
- Wear long sleeves.
- Wear a hat; broad-brimmed hats do a better job protecting the head and neck.
- Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, and apply it 20 to 30 minutes before going outside.
- Replace sunscreen every two hours, even waterproof lotions.
- Put on sunscreen before applying makeup, insect repellent or tanning oils.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Foundation
FDA Sunscreen Standards
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new standards that apply to sunscreen products starting in summer 2012. Here are the highlights:
- Products that pass a new standard test for protection against both UVA and UVB rays will be labeled “broad spectrum.’’ That means that the sunscreen can protect against sunburn and, if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. A “broad spectrum”-approved product automatically is SPF 15 or higher.
- Products that are not broad spectrum and which have SPF values from 2 to 14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
- Water resistance claims on the product’s front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating based on standard testing. Just two amounts of protection time will be permitted on labels based on testing: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
- Manufacturers can no longer claim their sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” nor can they identify their products as “sunblocks.”
More information about the new FDA rules regarding sunscreen products is available at www.fda.gov.
A Discussion with Dr. Steven Feldman from the Department of Dermatology
Start talking about behaviors and that gets Dr. Steven Feldman going.
Feldman, a dermatologist who’s an MD and PhD for the department of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, has a book called Compartments: How the Brightest, Best Trained and Most Caring People Can Make Judgments That are Completely and Utterly Wrong.
The simple question about why anyone would not use a product as simple as sunscreen sends Feldman into a discussion of how poorly people use medications in dermatology.
They forget. The topical treatments are messy. They worry about side effects. Kids don’t like their parents telling them what they need to take. They’re expensive.
So the idea that they might want to protect their skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays?
“Maybe they think they’re going to get a date if they’re darker,’’ Feldman says. “They’re weighing a date this week vs. skin cancer 40 years from now.’’
And that sends Feldman into an analysis of the economics of the decision-making process. Spending money now to protect against something that could happen in the future?
Lest anyone think Feldman doesn’t believe in protecting against the sun, think again.
“If you’re tanning, you’re damaging,’’ he says.
Tanning occurs because the body senses damage to its DNA from ultraviolet rays and sends a signal to make pigment that darkens the skin. And it can be dangerous, whether it’s outside in the sun or through the use of indoor tanning beds.
He tells a story, repeated in his book, about how he visited a classroom of girls in a health careers class in Mount Airy and was stunned to learn that every single teenager in the class was tanning to get darker to look more attractive – except for one Latino girl who he said wanted her darker skin to be lighter.
It’s a story of social pressure, one that Feldman is familiar with in his role as a dermatologist, especially when he deals with the consequences as patients arrive. So he advocates use of sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, and pushes a thick coat.
Of course the best thing to protect yourself, Feldman says, is wearing protective clothing. And with that he recounts, tongue firmly in cheek, of his trip to Maui, Hawaii, and how he looked with wonder at the beach upon arrival to see a sea of people wearing broad-brimmed hats and long sleeves.
“Of course we were there for the dermatologists’ convention.’’
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