It’s that time of year again when we’re all cooling off at the pool, getting out on the lake, cooking out, and traveling to the beach! All this fun translates into increased UV exposure, and we have a few tips to help keep you safe during the summer.
When it comes to sunscreen, the general rule is to apply generously and apply frequently.
- Choose a sunscreen that’s SPF 50 or above with broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage. UVA rays tend to penetrate deeper into the skin and are considered “aging rays.” They cause damage to collagen and other cells, leading to wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays affect the outer layers of the skin, leading to sunburns and tanning, which ultimately increase our risk for skin cancer.
- Apply often! Apply 15 minutes before going out and reapply every 1-2 hours. The hardest thing to do when we’re having fun is remembering to reapply sunscreen. I always advise patients to set an alarm on their phone. The general rule is to apply sunscreen every 2 hours, but if you’re sweating or in the water, try to reapply every hour. The reason is that in all likelihood, you’re probably wiping off all that awesome protection every time you towel off.
- Apply liberally! A good rule of thumb is to apply 1 oz. (a shot glass worth) of sunscreen to all sun-exposed areas. If you’re showing more skin, apply more!
- Avoid sprays! We all love them for their ease and convenience, but unfortunately, they don’t afford us the same level of protection. It’s difficult to assess what’s getting on your skin and what’s just getting blown away. Now if you’re a hairy male and you must use a spray, hold the nozzle close to the skin and rub in the sunscreen. Also, go for a mineral sunscreen like the EltaMD UV Aero Full Body.
- Don’t forget your scalp, eyes and lips! Wear a hat, because those skin cancers on the scalp can get ugly. My personal favorite wide brim hat is by Sibling Co (a little extra for some people, but I love it!). Protect your eyes against cataracts by wearing UV protective sunglasses, and use a lip balm with SPF.
In recent years, there’s been concern about absorption of the chemicals in sunscreen. Studies indicate that indeed, some of the ingredients in sunscreen may be absorbed into the bloodstream, but it does not mean these ingredients are unsafe. The FDA still maintains that the public should wear sunscreen given its overall health benefit. I tell patients that if you’re at all worried, favor mineral sunscreens composed of zinc oxide and / or titanium dioxide. These are inert metals that are not absorbed and offer excellent protection.
So in summary, get out there, have fun, and live your best life! … Just be safe about it! And as always, if you ever have any questions or concerns, feel free to give us a call.
Amir Aboutalebi, MD