Ask the Doctor: Skin Protection in the Sun
The higher the SPF - the better? We'll ‘Ask the Doctor’ for tips to protect your skin in the sun.
Getting a sunburn - just once every couple years - can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
Dr. Billie Casse is with Nevada Center for Dermatology.
If you have a question for her, call 858-2222 between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday.
1) When you think of a sunburn - lobster red, peeling or blistering skin comes to mind. But even pink skin in the sun can mean damage. How much sun is too much?
Getting out of the mid-day sun is a smart choice. Seeking shade is key to preventing skin cancer, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when the sun tends to be the hottest. Clothes block very little UV radiation because they're made of cotton. This compares to a sunscreen rated SPF 4. Covering up is the right idea, but dark colors, tight weaves, and clothing labeled at least SPF 30 work better. (More and more outdoor clothing has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF rating.
2) What's the minimum SPF you recommend and how often should you re-apply?
Sunscreen should not be used to extend your time in intense sunlight. Sunscreen is an important part of protecting your skin, but it does not provide total protection. To get the most from sunscreen, choose products of SPF 30 or higher that block both UVA and UVB rays, reapply at least every 2 hours, and use at least 1 ounce or a palm full for an adult. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) describes how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays (although it says nothing about protection from UVA rays). SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%. Be sure to choose a broad spectrum product that blocks both UVB and UVA light. It's also important to use enough sunscreen and reapply it often, especially if you are sweating or swimming.
3) Some people are turning to natural sunscreens with zinc. Are they as effective as mainstream brands?
You may have heard you should look for a "broad-spectrum" product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Any sunscreen that contains the physical blocker zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will have you covered.
4) Are you at risk - even with everyday exposure to the sun?
Dermatologists say brief sun exposure all year round can add up to major damage for people with fair skin. And some of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can even pass through windows, so driving or even sitting by a window during peak sun hours, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., can expose your skin to damaging UV rays if the sun is shining directly on you. Everyday exposures are linked to squamous cell skin cancer. Although not as dangerous as melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer is far more common and the number of cases has been going up every year.