Skip Navigation

Wake Forest Baptist Offers Tips on Sun Safety

Guy on Beach 177

Feeling the burn isn’t always a good thing.

In fact, protecting skin from harmful UV rays and preventing the lobster red coloration has become a priority for many individuals. So, why is that perfect tan so desirable?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many teens and young adults believe that a tan represents “good health” and boosts their self-esteem. Unfortunately, the type of exposure that produces these results can actually lead to various health issues including skin cancer, Melanoma and premature skin aging.

William W. Huang, MD, MPH, Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, discusses the following tanning-related misconceptions and offers tips to keep you safe and healthy all year around.

Are some UV rays ok?

There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation; UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA is able to penetrate deeper into the skin due to its longer wavelengths and contributes to premature skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer/melanoma. UVB is the primary cause of skin reddening and sunburns that contribute to skin cancer risk. UVC never reaches the earth’s surface in any significant amount.

When should sunscreen be applied?

Sunscreens should be applied at least 15 minutes prior to the exposure to sunlight. It should be reapplied every two hours and more frequently if you’re sweating or in the water. Sunscreens should be broad-spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB.

If an individual already has a base tan and spends time in the sun, they won’t get burnt because it’s like building up a tolerance.

A tan results from ultraviolet light injury to the DNA of skin cells. The skin darkens in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Over time multiple mutations accumulate due to this damage and Melanoma, commonly known as skin cancer, develops. Although a “base tan” would allow a person to potentially spend more time in the sun prior to developing a sunburn, DNA damage is still occurring.

Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 provides two times the amount of protection as SPF 15.

SPF is an imperfect measure as it does not measure UVA protection and should not be confused with the amount of protection one gets out of their sunscreen. An SPF of 15 screens about 93% of the sun’s UVB rays. An SPF of 30 screens about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

Is it ok to use sunscreen from last year?

Most sunscreens are designed to remain stable and maintain their protective strength for three years after being manufactured. Checking the expiration date is the most reliable way to know if your sunscreen is still appropriate to use. Also if sunscreen is being used appropriately and routinely, a bottle should not last a year.

Can lotion or makeup be worn with sunscreen?

Yes. Many facial moisturizers and makeup items contain sunscreen within their products also.

If the bottle of sunscreen is water proof, it does not have to be reapplied.

This is a common misconception. The FDA is actually getting rid of “waterproof” and “sweatproof” labeling as this is misleading to consumers. New regulations that will go into full effect at the end of this year will require manufacturers to specify how long a person can use the product while being in the water before it loses its protection and needs to be reapplied.

Do lips need sunscreen too?

The lips are also susceptible to UV damage. Using a nice lip protectant that has a sunscreen can help prevent the development of skin cancer on the lips. Sunglasses, a large wide brimmed hat, and other photo-protective clothing are other measures to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.  

For more information on skin care and avoiding Melanoma, visit the Wake Forest Baptist Dermatology Department.


Safety Articles

View Complete List »
Find a Doctor Ways to Give


UV Safety

UV Safety

Find some free tips from the dermatology department at Wake Forest Baptist Health for protecting yourself from ultraviolet rays.

Last Updated: 09-30-2016
Wake Forest Baptist Ranked among Nation’s ‘Best Hospitals’  25 Years in a Row by U.S. News & World ReportComprehensive Cancer Centers National Designation is Renewed2017-2018 Best DoctorsNursing Magnet StatusJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

© Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. All Rights Reserved.