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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kimberly N. Works


Bottle of Sunscreen

As we transition to more sunny days, I want to remind you that we should apply sunscreen daily, regardless of the season. We must protect our skin from harmful rays now and in the future (sunburn, skin cancer, and early signs of aging). I also must mention that it is a myth that Black and Brown people do not need sunscreen. The sun's rays do not discriminate.

Sunscreens are topical creams, lotions, and sprays that contain organic and inorganic filters that reflect or absorb radiation from UVA (ultraviolet wavelengths A) and UVB (ultraviolet wavelengths B). UVA rays cause increased signs of aging, and UVB rays cause skin burns. Examples of organic (chemical) sunscreens include PABA derivates, Cinnamates, and Salicylates. Inorganic (physical) sunscreens are Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. The main difference is that inorganic filters are less irritating to the skin. 

SPF (sun protection factor) is the sunscreen's ability to protect against sunburn, specifically about UVB. Suppose the bottle says "broad spectrum" it has been tested for UVA and UVB protection. SPF 15 is generally recommended for everyday use. It can be found in facial moisturizers and makeup or as a standalone product. SPF 30 or higher is recommended for outdoor sports, work, or recreational activities. (As the SPF value increases, sunburn protection increases; however, anything beyond SPF 50 makes very little difference in the risk of sun damage, and no sunscreens offer 100% protection from UVB rays.)

Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all areas exposed to the sun. The "Teaspoon Rule" is an easy way to ensure enough is being used. Apply one teaspoon of sunscreen to the face and neck area, two teaspoons to the front and back, one teaspoon to each upper arm, and two teaspoons to the lower legs. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. This should be repeated at least every 2 hours or after water exposure (unless the label says it is water-resistant).

If your little one is younger than six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends they avoid sunscreen. You are encouraged to dress your child in lightweight, long-sleeved clothes and large hats. An SPF of 15 with inorganic filters is advised if adequate garments are unavailable. Inorganic is best because kids have an immature skin barrier, which is less irritating.

It was difficult for individuals with additional melanin (dark brown and black pigmented skin) to find a sunscreen that did not leave a white residue. In the past, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (inorganic filters) were large particles that, when applied, would go a white film. These inorganic filters are now broken down into small particles with nanotechnology, causing them to be more transparent against the skin. My dermatologist colleagues recommend Elta MD, Black Girl Sunscreen, Neutrogena, CevaVE, and La Roche-Posay, to name a few. Of course, these are available to everyone.

Chat Soon!

Dr. W

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