• Culture
  • by Skippack Pharmacy
  • August 9, 2023
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Sunny Days Mean Sunscreen Today

We’re finally reaching the half-way point in the year and you know what that means. The sun is shining, the boardwalks are crowding, and the summer is here! Before you pack your bags for this weekend’s trip out to the shore (whether you prefer the Jersey, Delaware, or Maryland beaches), take a few moments to read up on some important sunscreen tips.

What is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is an active ingredient in creams, lotions, or sprays to apply on and protect skin from the harsh, ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Intense UV exposure can increase a person’s likelihood of developing skin cancer – as a result, sunscreen is essential, especially when it’s bright and sunny outside. Contrary to popular belief, you can even get sunburns or increase cancer risk on windy or cool days when there’s high UV levels.  Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US worldwide – sunscreen is one of the most powerful ways to reduce the spread of this cancer!

Since anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of age, gender, or race, all people should wear sunscreen. In providing protection, sunscreen also protects your skin from harmful sunburns, sunspots, and wrinkled skin/premature aging. Even if you have less sensitivity to the sun (i.e. people with darker skin may not burn as easily), you still put yourself at risk of developing UV radiation damage without sunscreen. Talk about a two for one deal! 

Choosing the Right Sunscreen:

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends people use sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection (meaning it protects against both UV-A and UV-B rays), has an “SPF 30” or higher label, and has water resistance. Let’s explain why each of these are important:

UV Types: The sun has three types of UV radiation; UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C (this type is completely absorbed by the atmosphere and does not reach us). While both UV-A and UV-B both penetrate the skin, UV-A goes deeper into the skin and occurs more consistently throughout the year. UV-A rays (aging rays) can cause premature aging wrinkles and spots. This type can also pass through window glass. UV-B (burning rays) more commonly lead to sunburn but are blocked by glass.

SPF: The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a number that indicates how well a sunscreen protects skin from UV-B radiation damage. There is no SPF that provides 100% protection against UV rays. However, SPF 15 blocks 93% of the sun’s UV-B rays while SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UV-B rays. Higher SPF values do not match up with significantly higher protection – SPF 50 protects from 98% of these UV-B rays. 

Water-Resistance: According to the FDA, water resistance means the sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes in the water. The term “very water resistant” means it’s effective for 80 minutes in the water. These rules also apply for sweating. In either case, once the time is up, you’re recommended to re-apply for full protection. 

Sunscreen wears off throughout the day and must be applied regularly every 2 hours, after toweling, or after being in the water (see water resistance recs above). While there are combination moisturizer/sunscreen products, the sunscreen protection will still only last 2 hours at a time. 

Types of Sunscreen:

There are two different types of sunscreens: chemical and physical (mineral). Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays – common active ingredients for this type include avobenzene, oxybenzone, or octinoxate. Meanwhile, physical sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays – these include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. While some sunscreen products use both types of active ingredients, others may only have one or the other. Certain people may have greater sensitivity to chemical sunscreens or allergies to additional ingredients or dyes – in these cases, check the product’s full ingredient list. Some products have a “sensitive skin” designation, which may indicate that these products are free from harmful dyes or other ingredients. 

There are many types of sunscreen formulations. Creams can be helpful for dry skin and the face, while gels work best on hairy areas. Spray sunscreens can be quick ways to cover the body, but make sure enough product is used and cover your nose when applying to prevent you from breathing the product. Never spray sunscreens around the face or mouth – to cover these areas, spray into your hands and rub in the product. Regardless of the type of sunscreen, make sure you use enough. 

How to Apply Sunscreen

Rub the sunscreen deeply into your skin and apply to all bare skin. Don’t forget to include your neck, ears, face, tops of your feet, and legs (if they will be exposed to the sun). Most guides recommend a “generous” amount of sunscreen – while this may vary, most adults require about 1 oz of sunscreen per application to fully cover their body. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before heading outside 

Additional Tips for Sun Protection:

Remember, no sunscreen is 100% effective at preventing sun damage. If you’re outside for an extended period of time, seek shade when appropriate, especially during the hours of 10 AM – 2 PM, when the sun’s rays are strongest. Wear protective clothing when possible, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, or a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. Even after the summer, the sun will continue to emit harmful UV rays – on cloudy days, up to 90% of the sun’s UV rays can still penetrate your skin. Snow, sand, and water may increase the need for sunscreen since they reflect the sun’s rays – these tips apply year-round!

Skippack Pharmacy offers a wide array of sunscreens for purchase. Stop by our pharmacy for more information and comprehensive sun protection!

Further Reading: 

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. “Sunscreen FAQs”
  2. Robinson JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection, and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005;294:1541-43.

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