With over 7,000 Americans expected to die from melanoma this year alone 1, protecting your skin from skin cancer is so important! However, there are many options out there for sunscreens, and there are ways you can maximize its effectiveness. To help you protect your skin every day, here are answers to some of the most common questions patients have for doctors when it comes to choosing sunscreen.
Are the chemicals in sunscreen safe?
The Journal of the American Medical Association released a new study raising concerns about how we protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Researchers took blood samples of 24 people who used sunscreen four times a day. In only four days, they discovered levels of four chemical ingredients that exceed the FDA’s recommended limits. These chemicals are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. 2 Researchers have discovered oxybenzone in particular in human breast milk, urine, amniotic fluid and blood. Further research is expected to arise after this study to show the true effects of these findings.
So how do you choose safe sunscreen?
If you are concerned about the safety of chemical sunscreens, use a mineral based one which relies on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect sunlight from the skin instead of absorbing it like chemical sunscreens.
Your sunscreen should also have the following characteristics:
Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
SPF 30 or higher
Are high SPFs better?
Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UVB rays. However, no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
Many incorrectly believe that higher number SPFs last longer. A high-number SPF does not allow you to go longer in between applications. You should reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours while outdoors according to the directions on the bottle.
Do I need sunscreen if I am sitting in the shade?
Yes, even if you are sitting under a beach umbrella for example, you cannot be completely protected. You don’t know exactly how much protection the umbrella gives from the sun’s rays.
Do I need sunscreen if the sun isn’t out?
Yes, you should apply it every day that you go outside. The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round; it doesn’t matter what season it is. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.
Furthermore, sand, water and snow increase the need for protection from the sun because they reflect the sun’s rays.
Are spray sunscreens effective?
The challenge with spray sunscreens is that it is difficult to know if you are effectively covering your skin. If using, spray and ample amount, and rub it in to ensure even coverage.
How much sunscreen should I apply?
Most people do not use the recommended amount. As a rule of thumb, adults need about 1 ounce to fully cover their body, enough to fill a shot glass.
How should I store sunscreen?
Keep your sunscreen in good condition by avoiding exposing it to excessive heat or direct sun. Many keep sunscreen in their car. Although this may compromise the effectiveness, it is better to have sunscreen in your car than to find yourself without! Keep sunscreen containers in the shade or wrap them in a towel. Discard it when you notice changes in color or consistency. Sunscreen that is kept out of the heat and sun should last three years before expiring.
Have questions about protecting yourself from the sun? Our CCMH Providers would love to visit with you. Find your new Physician today by visiting CCMHealth.com/Providers.
2 Murali K. Matta, PhD1; Robbert Zusterzeel, MD, PhD, MPH1; Nageswara R. Pilli, PhD1; et al. American Medical Association. Effects of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients. 6 May 2019.
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