Skin Care and Sun Protection: Tips from a Dermatologist
When shopping for sunscreen, choose an SPF 50 or higher that is water resistant or "sport."
Summer time and skin care go hand in hand. Protecting yourself and loved ones from harmful sun rays takes time, diligence and the ability to carefully read labels.
UVA and UVB rays are both harmful and cause Melanoma so it’s important to find sunscreen protection against both. Amy McMichael, MD, Chair of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, said that can be difficult because in the United States, there is no current criteria for measuring or labeling the amount of protection against UVA for sunscreens.
“Nevertheless, products with ecamsule, avobenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide offer more complete sunshine protection than products without these ingredients,” she said.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to introduce UVA standards within the next few years. The Skin Cancer Foundation says it’s also helpful to look for such phrases as “multi spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection” on sunscreen labels, which all indicate that some UVA protection is provided.
A trip to the drug store can be overwhelming with the many choices in brand and SPF number. McMichael points out that there is no difference between adult sunscreens and those for children, except the color of the bottle. You can chalk that up to marketing.
“I suggest that parents choose an SPF 50 or higher product, preferably very water resistant or ‘sport’, and use these products every day,” she said. “No individual brand is better than another.”
The key to effective sunscreen use, she said, is a three-step process, but an easy one. “Use a lot of sunscreen, use it 15 to 30 minutes before any water exposure and use it every single day.”
Seeking shade when possible and wearing protective clothing is also recommended – long sleeves and hats, and swim shirts are helpful at the beach and pool. “Nothing that may be squeezed from a bottle is as effective as a broad brimmed hat and long sleeves,” McMichael said. “Over a century ago, virtually all people wore such protection all summer. This has been lost from our culture.”
For more information about sun protection, visit the Wake Forest Baptist Dermatology Department.