Little-Known Sunscreen Facts

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Abigail L. Cuffey, Woman's Day

Wearing sunscreen daily is a must to lower your risk of developing skin cancer . But the type you choose and how to apply it makes a difference, too. Read on to ensure you're approaching sun protection the right way.

Go for broad protection. The label should say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection." (Or just look for the new Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation.) The reason: UVB rays cause you to burn and increase your risk of skin cancer, but UVA rays break down skin elasticity, which causes wrinkles and lines, says Albert M. Lefkovits, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Any sunscreen you buy should also have an SP F of at least 15—which means that you can theoretically stay out in the sun 15 times as long as you could without any protection before burning. (SPF 30 is even better.) Remember to reapply at least every two hours.

Put sunscreen everywhere... like the skin on and behind your ears, the tops of your feet and the part in your hair. Many people forget about these sensitive areas, which can result in painful burns and the possibility of cancerous growths, says Vernon Sondak, MD, chair of the cutaneous oncology department at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Another effective way to protect easy-to-forget areas? Wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Don’t save sunscreen for the beach. "Sun damage is cumulative and every little bit counts, so remember to apply before outdoor activities like gardening and walking the dog," says Kristinn Vazquez, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Stratospheric Protection Division. A good rule: Anytime you’re going to be outdoors for longer than 10 minutes (especially during the peak of the day), make sure to cover up.

Sensitive skin? Skip gels and waterproof formulas. "Gels typically have more alcohol, as well as an ingredient called propylene glycol, which many people are allergic to," says Dr. Lefkovits. Waterproof is also a potential problem. "Water can’t get in, but sweat also can’t get out—which can cause breakouts," says Dr. Sondak. Opt for a creamy lotion instead.

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Did you learn anything new about sunscreen? Do you apply regularly?

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OPERADIVA114 - what's the name of the sunscreen - my son's allergic to aloe
I live in Hawaii and I definitely wear a sunblock whenever I plan to be out in the sun for more than a few minutes. I try to go to the park and walk for an hour whenever I can, and I use a spray-type sunblock, as I'm by myself and there's no one I can ask to help "lotion me down". Report
What exactly was "little known" about any of these facts? They all seem pretty straightforward and obvious to me!

One thing I read recently was that you should get a new bottle of sunscreen each year, because it might become less effective as it ages. I'm kind of a cheapskate and hate to throw away a container before it is empty, but if it's not doing us any good that's even worse than the waste. I made sure to write the year on the new bottle I got for this year. Report
Part of my job involves developing sunscreens so I know all about the dangers of sun exposure. I wear sunscreen every day on my face (which is easy now that a lot of good daily moisturisers have sunscreens in them).
There's one thing I'd like to add, though, for people with sensitive skin. Look for a sunscreen that uses physical blockers only (as opposed to organic / chemical filters), meaning titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as these ingredients are much less likely to irritate sensitive skin. Report
When I put sunscreen on my face, it seems to migrate into my eyes and effect my vision. I put it on anyway when I'm going to be out in the sunshine more than a few minutes. I do wear a wide-brimmed hat also. Report
The only reason I don't apply regularly is that over the years I still have yet to find a sunscreen that doesn't make me break out into a full body rash. I know cancer is worse than bright red itchy skin, but it's so painful and annoying! Report
Good info but also can be confusing as I was reading some health news on SPARKPEOPLE (forget which one it is) and the article said not to get confused and think that (for example) SPF 50 is double SPF 25 as it does not work that way, the increased protection is minimal, about 10%. None the less, protection is good and whatever works for you is great Report
I wear SPF 50 on my face, neck and hands every day, and SPF 30 on any other exposed parts. I have very fair skin, and will burn if I'm in the sun longer than 15 minutes during peak sun time! (10am to 4pm here!) Report
When I was a young teen, the older girls would use baby oil and add iodine to get a tan. My mama always had me use her's instead. There were never SPF's and her's was a cream. I would burn no matter what. We had an end of year pool party. Very few showed up because it was cloudy. I got the worst burn of my life! My checks each had sores that drained. After that I simply wanted to stay indoors, but kids do have activities! Today I will only use moisturizer and sun protector with SPF of 30 or wear long sleeves and a hat and swelter! Report
This is the first year I've ACTUALLY been able to find a sunscreen I can use. I'm allergic to aloe and was never able to find a sunblock without that little baby in it. And since avoiding the swimming pool was simply NOT an option for me--I'm a water baby and my city is too hot and humid to not take a dip--I endured years of sunburns. Last year, I sent frustrated emails to all the major sunblock companies I could think of because their "sensitive skin" formulas simply didn't cut it for me. I did this several times.

Imagine my joy when I noticed a new sunblock in my local store this year. One WITHOUT aloe at all. NO MORE SUNBURN! I bought 3 bottles. Report
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