Many people head to the beach for spring break, or use it as a great opportunity to spend time outdoors. More often than not that also means you’re spending time outside in the sun.You are pretty good about applying sunscreen, but how often should you be applying it?
Some common sunscreen ingredients, including the physical (or mineral) blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, can make the skin look white, at least until the product is adequately absorbed. These sunscreens physically “block” skin from the sun, and they have several advantages. They tend to work immediately, unlike chemical sunscreens, which need to be absorbed before they work effectively. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide also screen out a wide range of the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB) radiation – zinc oxide, in particular, effectively blocks all parts of the UV spectrum. Protection from both UVA and UVB is necessary, and some chemical sunscreens don’t provide comparably broad- spectrum defense. Also, physical blockers are preferred for young children’s sensitive skin, and for people who may have concerns about certain ingredients in chemical sunscreens.
It is very unlikely that you’re applying too much sunscreen — most people don’t apply enough, which is why undesirable sunburns and tanning can occur despite sunscreen application. To achieve the Sun Protection Factor (SPF, which protects against the sun’s UVB radiation) reflected on a bottle of sunscreen, you should use approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. In practice, this means applying the equivalent of a shot glass (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of the face and body – a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone. If you’re using a spray, apply until an even sheen appears on the skin. Remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently after swimming, heavy perspiration, or toweling off. Also remember, no matter how much sunscreen you apply, the SPF should be 15 or higher for adequate protection – and ideally 30 or higher for extended time spent outdoors.
In addition to using sunscreen, seek shade whenever possible, and wear sun-protective clothing, broad-brimmed hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
For more information about sunscreen, talk to your doctor.
Tags: cancer screening, melanoma, skin cancer, skin damage, skin screening, sun damage, sunscreen