Shade structures, clothing, sunscreen, and other measures can provide sun protection. Wearing clothes – tightly woven fabrics and dark colors have the greatest the UV protection. There are some clothing manufactures that make photoprotective clothes with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) build in ranging from 15 to 50. Coolibar, Solumbra, Mott50, REI, and Columbia are just a few of the companies that make sun-protective fashions.
Seek the shade particularly between the hours of 10AM-4PM when the sun is the strongest. The rule is if your shadow is shorter than you the more harmful the sun’s UV radiation is; if the shadow is longer the rays are less intense.
There are tons of choices when it comes to sunscreen, labels can be confusing, and finding the right product is only part of the sun protection equation. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures the ability to protect against Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. The SPF does not adequately measure protection from UVA rays – which is about 95% of the total UV radiation that reaches earth. Only sunscreens that pass FDA’s testing for protection against both UVA and UVB rays will be labeled as “broad spectrum.” UVA protection is not rated as there is no standard measurements for how long ingredients known to protect you from UVA rays will keep you protected.
“Broad spectrum” sunscreens that offer sufficient protection against UVB and UVA are preferred to products containing only UVB filters, since both UVA and UVB are involved in skin photoaging and photocarcinogenesis (cancer causing). Although most UVB sunscreens, particularly those with a high SPF, provide some protection against UVA radiation, the only three ingredients that satisfy the definition of UVA protection are:
- Avobenzone (organic)
- Zinc Oxide (inorganic)
- Titanium dioxide (inorganic)
Sunscreen with inorganic filters (ie, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) are preferred for infants and children because they offer broad spectrum protection and have minimal irritation, sensitization, and skin penetration potential. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of sunscreen products in infants younger than six months. However, when adequate clothing and shade are not available, a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF can be applied to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands.
How much SPF? When applied in sufficient amount as directed, the amount of UVB radiation absorbed by SPF 15, 30 and 50 sunscreen products is 93, 97, and 98 percent respectively. Products with SPF >50 provide only a negligible increase in the protection from UV. Another way of looking at SPF is based on time: if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours. For SPF 30, the prevention of reddening would be 30 times longer – about ten hours. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB. For most people, SPF 30 will suffice.
In order to be most effective sunscreens must be applied liberally, repeatedly, and to all sun-exposed parts of the skin. To achieve the full SPF value on the product label, the amount of sunscreen necessary to cover sun exposed skin of an average-sized adult when on a beach vacation is equivalent of the amount required to fill a 1 ounce (30 mL) shot glass. Most people do not apply such a large amount. This is one reason why I recommend at least SPF 30 to compensate. I also like the cream rather than the sprays as sprays can miss areas. If you choose to use spray I still recommend rubbing over exposed skin areas to avoid missed areas.
Timing of application is important. Sunscreens should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the formation of a protective film on the skin. Reapplication at least every two hours is necessary. All sunscreens are washed off upon water exposure like swimming or sweating --- even for sunscreen products labeled as "water-resistant" or "very water-resistant."
One of the biggest myths to skin protection I’d like to address is that people with dark skin don't need to use sunscreen. While it is true that having darker skin or more pigment (melanin) provides natural protection from damage from the sun’s UV rays, this doesn’t mean darker-skinned people can feel safe skipping sunscreen. Any darkening of your normal skin tone is just a sign that your body is defending itself against the radiation assault and attempting to prevent further damage. Even thought skin cancer is not common with people of color, when it does occur, it generally is more severe and even deadly. At least that is what a study from the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine reported who concluded that while African-Americans are 10 times less likely than Caucasians to develop non-melanoma skin cancer (like basal and squamous cell carcinomas), they’re more likely to die from it. The reason is that it’s usually detected at an advanced stage, when it’s more difficult to treat. This is true for melanoma studies as well. The delay in detection allows melanomas to spread---which is already the deadliest type of skin cancer worldwide.
- Limit unprotected sun exposure to 20 minutes a day. We need the sun for a boost of Vitamin D3 but excessive sun exposure will cause damage. Oral vitamin D3 supplementation is a safe, well-tolerated, and inexpensive alternative to sun exposure to achieve adequate vitamin D levels as well. And often needed despite sun exposure.
- Seek the shade. Reduce exposure particularly in the summer months and between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Protective clothing. Long sleeves and broad brim hats. Tight woven, dark-colored fabrics. woven, are useful for protection. UV-blocking sunglasses and consider sun protective clothes with UPF.
- Use a “broad spectrum” (UVA/UVB) sunscreen.
- Apply and Re-Apply. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months. When adequate clothing and shade are not available, a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF can be applied to small areas.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
- Examine your skin note changes and discuss with your doctor regularly.
Everyone is susceptible to the kind of damage the sun can have aging the skin and inducing cancer. Protect your self before you wreck yourself! Be safe and have a fantastic summer!!
This information is provided by Dr. John E. Thomas with On Point Primary Care clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your primary care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. Feel free to contact Dr. Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or would like further information about his practice or to schedule your free consultation to see if On Point Primary Care is right for you and your family.