Sunscreen Tips to Keep Safe

The warm rays of the sun are calling as summer approaches. But don’t be lulled into a sense of complacency and forget to take measures to protect your skin from the summer rays.

Here are some sunscreen tips to allow fun in the sun.

Most people do not use enough sunscreen. Many people figure that the higher the sun screen factor, the more protection. But an SPF of 15 screens 93 percent of the sun’s rays while an SPF of 30 screens 97 percent. When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words "broad-spectrum" on the label. It will screen out both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.

Instead of the numbers, people should be focused on how much they are applying. For better protection, use 1 to 2 ounces, or the size of a Ping-Pong ball, on the body 30 minutes before going outdoors to allow the skin to absorb it. Also, reapply every two hours. It is also important to cover the face with a dollop every day.

Makeup with SPF is better than skipping sunscreen altogether but it is not as effective as wearing a facial lotion with sunscreen underneath. Makeup can crack on the skin, allowing UW rays through. So put on a layer of lotion with sunscreen first and then apply your makeup.

Sunscreen should also be applied to the entire body, not just what is exposed. The average T-shirt offers an SPF of about 7. Darker fabrics and tighter weaves provide more protection. However it is safer to apply sunscreen to the entire body before getting dressed. Also consider wearing clothing made of UV protective fabrics, which have been specifically treated with a colorless UV-absorbing dye. Many offer an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50, which blocks both UVA and UVB.

Ultraviolet rays can break down the chemical molecules of a sunscreen quickly. Use a sunscreen containing physical blocking ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which stay on the surface of the skin as a protective barrier. Don't be tempted to use babies' or children's sunscreens, which don't necessarily contain physical blocks.

No sunscreen is truly waterproof. Many are water resistant and the labels have to say how long the resistance lasts. You should reapply every two hours and every time you get in and out of the water or work up a sweat.

The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to keep out of the sun during these hours. Sunscreen should be used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.

It's safest to keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun. Use sunscreens on children older than 6 months.

Tina Bettin, APNPBy Tina Bettin, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, APNP, ThedaCare Physicians-New London