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Thursday, June 27, 2013

22 Common Sunscreen Questions Answered




Photo © 2009 Robert S. Donovan, Flickr

If you’ve ever read one of these blog posts, you know I constantly and consistently mention wearing sunscreen. But I realize that there may be some misconceptions or confusion when it comes to the wealth of sun protection information out there.  Here is a little Q&A to enlighten you before getting out in the sun.

Sunscreen products can go all the way up to 100+, but an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks about 96 percent of UVB rays. Above an SPF 30 the product doesn’t block much more in the amount of UVB, and it doesn’t drastically extend the time you can be in the sun. For any increase in SPF, you may get a few extra minutes before your skin begins to redden.

2. What is a broad-spectrum sunscreen? Is it better than other types of sunscreen?
Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA rays, which can prematurely age you, and UVB rays, which burn your skin. You want a product that will give you the most protection possible, and broad-spectrum is a great option for that.

3. Should I protect my hair?
Absolutely! The sun can damage any area of the skin, including you scalp. Plus, the sun can bleach and dry out your hair. Make sure to use at least an SPF 30 on the part in your hair or any other exposed area of your scalp. Also consider a moisturizing and protecting product on your tresses. Of course, you can always be ultra-fashionable and use a large hat to protect your locks and face.

4. What’s the right way to apply sunscreen?
Sunscreen should be applied about 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, and 1 ounce should be applied to each extremity. That’s 1 ounce for each arm, 1 ounce for each leg, 1 ounce for the front of your torso, 1 ounce for the back of your torso and 1 ounce for your face and neck area. Yep, that’s 7 to 8 ounces total, but you want to block the sun, not simply screen it.

5. How do I keep sunscreen out of my eyes?
The best solution is to use a physical barrier, like a hat, visor or sweatband. You can use a stick sunscreen, but studies have shown that they aren’t as effective as traditional sunscreen products.

6. How long does SPF last?
I’ll answer this as a two-part question. First, SPF should be applied at least every two hours  and more if you’re sweating a lot, swimming or doing any other activity that is rubbing off or wearing away at your sunscreen. As far as the actual breakdown of the product, sunscreen is effective for three years after its purchase date, but this is given that it’s stored at room temperature and not exposed to extreme heat, like in a hot car, which breaks down the product more quickly.

7. How should I apply sunscreen to my back?
If you don’t have someone you trust to apply sunscreen to your back, there are products available to help with applying lotions to the hard-to-reach areas of your back. You can use spray products, but studies have shown they aren’t as effective and you would also want to be careful about breathing those types of chemicals in to your lungs, as some have been shown to be carcinogenic.

8. Does sunscreen affect fish?
Unfortunately yes, some of the chemicals in sunscreens have been found to have an adverse affect on the environment. If this is a concern for you, there are plenty of physical barriers like clothing, hats and sunglasses that you could use to protect yourself and the environment.

9. Are there special sunscreens for people who suffer from rosacea?
People who suffer from rosacea can be susceptible to some of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens. If you find yourself in this scenario, try mineral sunscreens, fragrance-free sunscreens or sunscreens formulated for people with sensitive skin.

10. Should I wear SPF clothing? (UPF)
Sun-protective clothing is actually referred to as UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. And of course you should use these! They protect better than regular clothing, and there’s no need to worry about reapplying your sunscreen on the covered parts of your body.

11. Can chemicals in sunscreen hurt me?
Yes, some chemicals in sunscreen can harm you, but you shouldn’t skip the sunscreen for fear of the chemicals. Studies have shown that oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate are chemicals you should avoid in sunscreen products. If you are concerned about or sensitive to certain chemicals, look for sunscreen without them, if possible, or consider physical barrier options like UPF clothing and products.

12. Are sport formulas really waterproof/long-lasting?
Not really. All sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, and if you’re doing something that wears away at that sunscreen, it needs to be reapplied even more often.

13. Is sunscreen a “fountain of youth”?
In a way, yes; a recent study in Australia showed that people who used sunscreen consistently tended to age slower than those who didn’t. This is likely due to protection from the sun’s harmful rays, which can cause your skin to show signs of aging like wrinkles or sun spots.

14. How much sunscreen do I need to use?
You should apply 1 ounce to each extremity; that’s 1 ounce for each arm, 1 ounce for each leg, 1 ounce for the front of your torso, 1 ounce for the back of your torso, and 1 ounce for your face and neck area. Yep, that’s 7 to 8 ounces total, but you want to block the sun, not simply screen it.

15. Do people with darker skin need to use sunscreen? If yes, should they use something different than lighter-skinned people?
Yes, people with darker skin don’t burn as easily, but they still sustain the same damage. They usually aren’t aware of the damage because of the lack of sunburn, though. People with darker skin should still use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplied every two hours, with 1 ounce of product on each extremity.

16. Will sunscreen aggravate my acne?
Sunscreen can trigger acne, so use fragrance-free or oil-free options to avoid breakouts.

17. Will using sunscreen keep me from getting enough vitamin D?
Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen can inhibit vitamin D absorption, but most likely, you won’t wear it to the extent that you develop a vitamin D deficiency. If nothing else, you can take vitamin D supplements to correct this possible issue.

18. How often should I buy new sunscreen?
Sunscreen is good for three years unless it’s left out in the sun where the chemicals break down more quickly. Find a product you like and store it at room temperature.

19. Are spray sunscreens and stick sunscreens OK to use?
Studies have shown that these forms of sunscreens aren’t as effective as traditional sunscreen lotions. Also, the chemicals in spray sunscreens can be harmful if inhaled. I would recommend sticking to lotion-type sunscreen products.

20. How effective are sunscreen-insect repellent combos?
These combination products tend to be less effective than each product on their own. For maximum protection on all levels, apply sunscreen first, then apply bug repellent.

21. Is there a way to remove sunscreen?
Most sunscreens will wear away on their own over the course of the day, but if for some reason you feel like the product has left a residue behind, simply using water, soap and a little bit of elbow grease is best.

22. Can my diet help protect my skin from the sun?
There are studies that suggest beneficial chemicals in fruits and vegetables can provide added sun protection, but they do not replace sunscreen or physical sun barrier products.

Do you have any questions that weren’t answered in this post? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to help you out!

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