Sun safety tips to prevent skin ailments
Choosing a sunscreen as part of your family’s overall sun safety routine can be tricky with new labeling and recommendations for sunscreen use. Here’s how to buy, use and apply sunscreen properly so you never get burned by the sun’s damaging rays, which cause aging, wrinkles and skin cancer.
Check for broad-spectrum protection
Did you know that melanoma is the deadliest, yet most preventable, form of skin cancer? According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, nearly 90 percent of melanomas are simply caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
In the past, sunscreens protected only against UVB rays, which cause sunburn now and skin cancer later. Currently, sunscreens include new chemicals that also protect against UVA rays, which cause skin aging, wrinkles and skin cancer over time. Choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum,” which indicates it’s been tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Understand sun protection factor
According to the FDA, the sun protection factor (SPF) measures how much UV radiation will cause a sunburn on protected skin with sunscreen compared to unprotected skin. But, contrary to popular mistaken belief, SPF doesn’t tell you how much time you can spend in the sun without getting burned. That exact amount of time depends on many factors such as your skin type, how much sunscreen you applied and when as well as the time of day.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommended using a sunscreen SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays. The higher SPF numbers only block slightly more of the sun’s UV rays. In fact, the FDA banned the word “sunblock” from sunscreen labels because no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays. According to the AAD, the higher number SPFs don’t “last longer” than the lower SPF numbers, and all sunscreens need to be applied every two hours.
Waterproof isn’t real
The FDA also banned misleading terms such as “waterproof” and “sweatproof” from sunscreen labels. Look for “water-resistant,” which lasts up to 40 minutes or “very water-resistant,” lasting up to 80 minutes. Those are the only two time measurements telling you how long the product will keep protecting you regardless of the SPF.
Apply sunscreen properly
The AAD recommended applying one full ounce of at least SPF 30 sunscreen to your entire body 15 minutes before spending time in the sun and every two hours after. Sun safety is especially important if you have an outdoor job or you exercise or play outdoors in the sun every day. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your lips, ears, hands, feet and the back of the neck and top of the head, especially if you have balding or thinning hair.
Taking these precautions will help cut down or prevent sunburn. However, if you get burned, it could be a good idea to contact a physician for treatment advice.
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