The Sun and Sunscreen
Updated: May 18
Raise your hand if you apply sunscreen every day. Raise your hand if you reapply your sunscreen every two hours as directed. I can personally say that neither of my hands are raised. I may apply my Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 in the mornings but I never reapply. And I definitely do not apply anything stronger on the weekends when I am out hiking running or biking. Never. Yes, I need to do much better.
As we transition to more sunny days, I wanted to give you (and me) a gentle reminder we should be applying sunscreen every day, regardless of the season. We need to protect our skin from the harmful rays for 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 to 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 in relation to UVB. If 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 terms of risk of sun damage, and no sunscreens offer 100% protection from UVB rays.)
Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all areas that are exposed to the sun. The “Teaspoon Rule” is an easy way to ensure enough is being applied. Apply 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to the face and neck area, 2 teaspoons to the front and back, 1 teaspoon to each upper arm, and 2 teaspoons to the lower legs. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to 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. If adequate clothes are not available, an SPF of 15 with inorganic filters is advised. Inorganic is best because kids have an immature skin barrier and it is less irritating.
It used to be 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 size particles that, when applied, would leave a white film. Now, these inorganic filters are 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.
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