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Summer Guide to Sunscreen

Summer is upon us, and so is a lot of confusing data regarding sunscreens. What sunscreen is right for the beach? How about daily wear? Do you need sunscreen when you exercise? In the middle of all the discussions about SPF and side effects from chemicals is the real story about sunscreens. How about a simple sunscreen guide to help take out the guesswork? MedPost has you covered — literally.

A Little About Tanning

It is a common misconception that a little tanning won’t hurt you. The Skin Cancer Foundation calls tanning a response to DNA damage. It’s just that simple. A base tan is just as harmful as getting a sunburn.

What Does SPF Really Mean?

SPF is a rating used to measure that amount of protection the product has against the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. On a really sunny day, your skin might burn in 20 minutes. If you are wearing a sunscreen marked SPF 15, it gives you 15 times longer before you burn — or 300 minutes. Sweating, playing in the water and even your overall health and medications you take can influence the effectiveness of sunscreen, though.

The Right Way to Use Sunscreen

A few general rules to follow include:

  • SPF 30 is a practical choice for everyday use.
  • Switch to a higher SPF for intense or extended exposure to the sun. If you are spending the day outside with the kids, you want stronger protection.
  • Add your sunscreen a half hour before going outside to give your skin a chance to absorb it.
  • Reapply it every two hours, regardless of the SPF rating. If you are sweating a lot, reapply it more often.
  • If you are swimming, reapply it immediately after coming out of the water.

If you have a history of sun sensitivity, are taking an antibiotic like Cipro or use an anti-aging product that contains a retinoid, it’s better to avoid the sun as much as possible.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

Many sun protection products are listed as physical sunscreens, but how is this different from that SPF-rated lotion? A physical sunscreen uses a mineral that does not dissolve. They work as a shield instead of absorbing the rays from the sun. An example of a physical sunscreen is the white stuff you see people wear on their nose: this is zinc oxide.

The FDA has approved two types of physical sunscreens:

  • Zinc oxide – Offers full protection
  • Titanium dioxide – Offers partial protection

There are pros and cons to both chemical and physical sunscreens. If your skin tends to be sensitive to lotions, you might do better with a physical sunscreen product. From there, it is really just a matter of preference. Some people may even choose to combine the two kinds. It’s important to find what works best for you.

The smart way to stay safe this summer is to create a strategy for every outing, and it should always include sun protection. Whether you are headed to the beach with the family or just walking from the car to the store, your body is constantly exposed to the dangerous rays of the sun… so do what you can to protect it!