Sun Safety 101 as We Head Out to Spring and Beyond!

As we launch into spring and the lazy days of summer, everyone knows wearing sunscreen when outdoors is important, but until recently, most people just grabbed their favorite brand and trusted that the ingredients were safe. Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a long-awaited update to sunscreen rules aimed at strengthening regulations of over-the-counter sunblock. Based on current available data, only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safe and effective according to the FDA.

Mt. Pleasant Dermatology’s Dr. Stephanie Smith-Phillips recommends one ounce of sunblock (equivalent of a shot glass) for your whole body. Then make sure you reapply every 80 minutes even when using water-resistant products. She says lip protection is also very important and suggests using Elta MD Zinc Lip Balm.

As for which sun protection factor or SPF to choose, Dr. Smith-Phillips says using at least a 30 is critical to prevent skin cancer and protect the skin from damage caused by the sun’s rays. The FDA plans to raise SPF values on sunscreen labels from SPF 50+ to SPF 60+.  Interestingly enough, SPF 15 blocks 93% percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 and SPF 50 block 97% and 98% of UVB rays, respectively, helping to prevent skin cancer. But remember, sunscreen is not just for spring and summer, it should be used 365 days a year including cloudy days.

Other tips to avoid sun damage from the American Academy of Dermatology include:

  • Seek shade between 10am -4pm
  • Wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, and when possible, long sleeves and pants
  • Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV ray protection

Is indoor tanning ever safe?

In a word, no. Dr. Smith-Phillips and the American Academy of Dermatology agree, tanning beds and sun lamps expose us to dangerous UV radiation which is considered a known carcinogen (tends to cause cancer).  In fact, some tanning beds and lamps emit UV radiation many times stronger than that of the sun. Studies show that indoor tanning raises the risk of melanoma by 75% and also increases the chance of getting other types of skin cancer.

If  you want to get a little color before hopping into your favorite swimsuit, the safest bet is to pick up a bottle of sunless tanner which is available at most drug stores or try a spray tan from a local salon.

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