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Who Needs Sunscreen? Everyone

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Experts are unanimous on the recommendation that everyone should be using a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 every day all year. A strong connection between sun exposure/sunburn and risk of skin cancer has clearly been established. If you ever got sunburned once or twice, then your risk of skin cancer sometime in your life goes up a lot. Don’t be one of the one million people who will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year alone in this country.

There is a lot of confusion about sun protection and sunscreen products. First, there is no such thing as a safe tanning bed. Getting a tan before you go to Hawaii does not protect you. It only adds to the sun damage of your skin. The harmful ultraviolet rays of sunlight are what burns or damages the deeper layers of the skin.

There are two types of ultraviolet rays: A and B. They both are damaging to the skin and can lead to the development of this type of cancer. Skin cancer can happen at any age, but the skin has a memory, accumulating the sun damage throughout a lifetime. That is why skin cancers are more common as people age.

Sunscreen should be applied every day to the exposed skin even if you are not planning to be outdoors. UVA rays are able to penetrate glass while the UVB cannot. 70-80% of ultraviolet rays pass through overcast skies on cloudy days. Sand, water, and snow all reflect a great deal of sunlight. You need everyday protection regardless of the weather or your activities.

Choosing a sunscreen product need not be confusing. Many cosmetics have added some sunscreen for the obvious benefits in reducing UV exposure and preventing its premature aging effects on the skin. Look for a SPF of at least 15, broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB), and water-resistant if you are going to be active outdoors.

The American Academy of Dermatologists advocate these attributes and their seal of recognition can be helpful on packaging. The following is a list of ingredients that help provide broad spectrum coverage: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), cinoxate, ecamsule (mexoryl SX), menthyl anthranilate, octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide. These ingredients will likely vary a lot in any given product depending on the amount of SPF and manufacturer.

Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas 20-30 minutes before going outdoors. Skin should be dry, coating it liberally and rub it in. Usual suggestions are one ounce of sunscreen to cover the exposed areas. One ounce would be about the same amount to fill a large shot glass. Take care to apply adequate amounts to face, nose, and ears as they are sensitive and often overlooked. Protect lips as well with sunscreen or an appropriate lip balm that has an SPF of 15. Reapplication should be done at least every two hours if you are swimming or perspiring heavily regardless of the claims of a water resistant product. Swimming, sweating, washing, toweling all reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen so reapplication may need to be even more frequent. Common mistakes are not using enough, leaving certain areas unprotected and not reapplying. The SPF rating is only a measure of delaying the redness and its damaging effects. It does not eliminate it or make you bulletproof.

It’s never too late to protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun. Preventing sunburn with proper use of sunscreen is an important part of making your time in the sun safe and enjoyable.

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About Bruce Kaler M.D.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Sure, it is important to understand the effects that UVA & B can have on your skin but if you constantly use sunscreen then you’ll never get enough Vitamin D. I always thought that moderation was the key to success with your health but for this topic I will sit on the opposing side. Vitamin D prevents osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and even effects diabetes and obesity. And now research shows “super antioxidants” like Astaxanthin greatly boost your body’s ability to handle sunlight without burning. So, in my honest opinion, if you are not “sun bathing” and you incorporate these types of antioxidants into your diet then you should not have to be intimidated by the sunscreen manufacturers or the people who get “kick-backs” from them.

    It just amazes me that this “Doctor” who wrote this article never mentioned this important information when covering such an important topic.

  • Bruce Kaler M.D.

    The amount of vitamin D required by the body is really quite small. The most current research actually makes unclear the exact amounts that are necessary. Use of sunscreen may reduce but not eliminate ability to gain Vitamin D from sunlight. There are so many Vitamin D enriched foods that one need not depend on sunlight alone to meet your daily requirement. The connection to various disease states mentioned with a vitamin deficiency remains speculative nor is there any clear beneficial role for any antioxidant. Healthy eating and lifestyle have a strong record of association with positive outcomes. Increasing evidence that supplements are not able to acheive the same results as a healthy diet abound. I have no ties or associations with any pharmaceutical companies or any other commercial manufacturer. I am trying to share the current wisdom of what is known about various medical problems. The risk and morbidity of sun damage from years of sun exposure or even one single bad sunburn are very clear. This risk is preventable and saves lives.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    The connection to various disease states mentioned with a vitamin deficiency remains speculative nor is there any clear beneficial role for any antioxidant.

    AND, it is very speculative nor is there any clear connection between one single bad sunburn & skin cancer.

    There are so many Vitamin D enriched foods that one need not depend on sunlight alone to meet your daily requirement.

    Yea…something like 10 glasses of milk per day to make up for the lack of sunlight. Can you please provide any nutritional info to show the readers what foods have plenty of Vitamin D?

    I am trying to share the current wisdom of what is known about various medical problems.

    Yet, you don’t provide links to any kind of research nor do you cover any more of this really important topic than just constantly smearing chemicals on your face & body. Granted, I’m not saying that a healthy diet w/ vitamins & antioxidants will save you 100%, I am saying there is more to this story than your article covers. Hell, even The Mayo Clinic points out a few more preventative measures then just utilizing sunscreen.

    Ultimately, your the Doctor here… People are going to take your words to heart.

  • Studies in N.Z. have shown that here (in a sun soaked land) people don’t regularly get enough sunlight on face, arms, legs. Sunscreens are not the best idea with links now appearing to some cancers and as above -lack of sun effect on skin.
    Better to using Zinc ointments I think.

    Also people have the notion that slip slop slap – the slop being the sunscreen just once early morning is all that’s needed, so they play at the beach all day; and fry!