Mobile Nav
919-761-5678

Blog // May 23, 2015

How to Stay Safe in the Sun - Sunscreen Facts and Choosing the Right Sunscreen for You

As we enter into summer, many are planning beach trips, lake parties, picnics, or just good old summer fun at your local pool. Buying sunscreen should be part of any of the above activities, and choosing the right brand and type can be overwhelming. Frequented words such as organic and inorganic, parabens or “paraben free”, UVA and UVB protection, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, oil-free, and so on. Below are some tips and facts regarding prevention and protection from sunburns, sun damage such as photoaging, and skin cancer.

As we enter into summer, many are planning beach trips, lake parties, picnics, or just good old summer fun at your local pool. Buying sunscreen should be part of any of the above activities, and choosing the right brand and type can be overwhelming. Frequented words such as organic and inorganic, parabens or “paraben free”, UVA and UVB protection, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, oil-free, and so on. Below are some tips and facts regarding prevention and protection from sunburns, sun damage such as photoaging, and skin cancer.

UVA and UVB radiation

UVA and UVB radiation prematurely age skin and cause skin cancer. UVB is the primary cause of sun burn, and has more superficial penetration. UVA is associated with deeper penetration, and are often the rays we are exposed to throughout the day, while in the car, through windows, etc, and are associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging, and photodamage. As if this isn’t enough for skin insults, UVA rays also exacerbate the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays, and increasingly are being seen as a cause of skin cancer on their own.

Physical and Cellular Response to Sunburn

Sunburn induces inflammation and blistering of the skin. This activates mast cells to the injured area, which dialate the blood vessels, producing redness and swelling, and weaking immune protectors, thus allowing tumor cells to proliferate more freely. This DNA damage can be the first step towards skin cancer. Sunscreen is the one vital tool that can help prevent all of these UVR insults to the body, along with sun avoidance or use of shade from 10-4.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen

Sunscreen is broken into two categories, Chemical vs Physical. The most commonly used sunscreens are “chemical” absorbers. They contain carbon compounds made in a laboratory, and work by absorbing, or scattering UV rays in the skin. Once it’s used up in the skin, it is no longer effective.

Physical, or mineral sunscreen, is when the UV rays are actually reflected off the skin, and does not absorb into the skin at all. Physical sunscreen can be used for any skin type, but is absolutely recommended for hypersensitive and post-procedure skin.

What is SPF?

The “Sun Protection Factor” ranges from 2 to 50, and refers to the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s harmful rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15, generally speaking , means you can stay in the sun 15x’s longer than without sunscreen before burning. Understand that increasing the SPF does not increase the protection proportionally. An SPF of 15 absorbs 93%, and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97% of the sun’s rays.

But there are problems with the SPF model: Per the Skin Cancer Foundation, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication. Second, “reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting.

Many after-shave lotions and moisturizers have an SPF 15 sunscreen in them, and that could be sufficient for everyday activities with a few minutes here and there in the sun. However, if you are spending a lot of time outdoors, or work outside, you need stronger, water-resistant sunscreen that holds together on your skin.

Dermatologists strongly recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater year round, with coverage on the face, lips, neck and hands.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Use and How Often to Apply?

To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply 1 oz- about a shot glass full. Studies have shown that most people only apply half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on is lower than advertised. During a beach day, you should increase the amount, and use one half to one quarter of an 8 oz bottle, and apply 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to bind to the skin. Reapply every 2 hours, and immediately after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

What to Use

Buy a high-quality product with an SPF of 15 or higher, with broad spectrum protection. Look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, which guarantees that a sunscreen product meets the highest standards for safety and effectiveness. At Heritage Urgent Care and Med Spa, we sell both physical and chemical sunscreens, with optimal protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and without harsh carcinogen causing chemicals and fillers. In addition, our sunscreens have medically proven, therapeutic properties to not only protect, but heal and repair skin damage. Our Avene sunscreens are the top selling sunscreen in Europe, and our SkinCeuticals sunscreens, developed at Duke, have a wonderful matte/ mousse texture that can be worn by itself with a tinted coverage, or can be worn under make-up as well. This is a newly launched, “one of a kind product” that the masses are raving about! Finally, we sell Elta MD sunscreen as well.

Please come in and check out our products!

Written by Beth Norton, MS, PA-C

Owner of Heritage Urgent Care and Med Spa, PLLC