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The dos and dont’s of sunscreen

By Sarah Bernard | The Thread Canada

 

Except for the entire cast of “Jersey Shore” as exemplified by the perma-tanned Snooki (left), most of us know by now that we’re supposed to protect our skin against the sun all year long. If you’re not concerned about skin cancer, try and absorb this fact: One in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. If that doesn’t make you run to the drugstore, let vanity be your motivation. There’s no better accelerator of wrinkling than sun exposure. Before summer officially begins, The Thread spoke with Dr. Neil Sadick, clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, to get his expert opinion on the correct way to avoid skin damage this season.

Let’s start with the basics. Does sunscreen expire? Yes. Keep it no more than one year.

What’s the lowest SPF a person should wear? It really depends on skin type. If you’re fair-skinned, you should wear 30-45. If you’re dark-skinned, 15-30. If you have a history of sunburn or skin caner, then 45 to 60. Once you get above 60 SPF there’s not much efficacy.

Do you really need to apply it an hour before you venture outside? It’s best to apply right before going in the sun. I wouldn’t put it on too much before because you get a certain amount of absorption by the body. No matter what, you need to reapply every four hours, or more often if you’re in the water or doing activities that can make you sweat. If you know you’re the type of person to sweat excessively, make sure you pick up a water-resistant variety.

It seems like sunscreen products have improved so much so quickly. What are the ingredients you suggest looking for in a sunscreen? Mexoryl, Parsol, Cinnamates, Helioplex, titanium oxide, and zinc. We have products coming out with Sephora that have high doses of antioxidants. A lot of research shows that sunscreens with ultrapotent antioxidants help reduce skin cancer.

A devil’s advocate question here: Let’s say you’re wearing a T-shirt or a long caftan over your bathing suit. Can you get away without it? No, because there could still be some absorption of UVA-UVB rays.

What if you’re wearing makeup? Sunscreen should still be the last product you apply.

You mentioned UVA and UVB. Do all sunscreens protect against both? Not necessarily. SPF relates to UVB rates. The FDA is about to implement a new sunscreen rating system,1 to 4 stars, that relates to the UVA protection. We now know a lot more about the role UVA plays in everything from aging to skin cancer to cataracts. The new system is delayed, but it will be here soon.

Sunscsreen sprays have gotten incredibly popular. Are sprays and lotions created equal? I like sprays better for their cosmetic approach but they’re much harder in terms of getting uniform application. In general if I want to go to the beach, I think lotion gives more coverage. I like sprays on the scalp and face.

What part of the body do your patients seem to forget most? Behind the ears, feet and scalp. I tell them that’s what the spray is for!

You mentioned UVA and UVB. Do all sunscreens protect against both? Not necessarily. SPF relates to UVB rates. The FDA is about to implement a new sun screen rating system which will be 1 to 4 stars that relates to the UVA protection. We now know a lot more about the role UVA plays in everything from aging to skin cancer to cataracts. The new system is delayed, but it will be here soon.

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