A Guide to SPF and Sun Protection
Time spent outdoors doesn’t need to be etched on your skin because of sun damage.
“Sunscreen is the most powerful tool you can use to protect your skin from cancer and the signs of aging,” says Northwestern Medicine Dermatologist Edidiong C. Kaminska, MD. “You should wear it daily.”
If you plan to spend any time outside, you need to protect yourself. Whether it’s overcast or sunny, the sun’s rays can damage your skin.
Keep in mind the following tips:
Seek shade when sunshine peaks.
The sun is strongest between 12 and 2 pm. If you can find shade during this time, you should.
You should apply sunscreen to exposed areas of skin.
UV rays can penetrate glass windows; so it is important to wear sunscreen while driving or even indoors near windows. Apply sunscreen to exposed areas of the body. Consider wearing clothing that contains SPF if you’re planning to be outside all day.
Broad spectrum is better.
Broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
“Sunlight is comprised of two types of rays: UVA and UVB,” says Dr. Kaminska. “UVA rays cause signs of aging like wrinkles, age spots and fine lines. UVB rays cause sunburns. Both rays can cause skin cancer.”
No sunscreen is truly waterproof, so reapply when you get out of the water.
“In general, you should reapply every two hours,” says Dr. Kaminska. “Enough sunscreen to fill up about one shot glass covers the whole body.”
Protect with makeup.
Many foundations and tinted moisturizers have SPF properties. If you’re planning on relying on your makeup for sun protection on your face, make sure that the SPF is at least 30 in your products.
Choose a physical sun block.
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV photons before they can damage your DNA. Physical sunscreens contain natural elements like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays away from your DNA.
“AAD suggests not using chemical sunscreens on children ages 6 months or younger. So, I typically recommend physical sunscreens to all patients,” says Dr. Kaminska.
Breakouts are no excuse.
If you have sensitive skin and are worried about skin breakouts, look for a sunscreen labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic,” which means it won’t block your pores.
“Many people are allergic to some of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens,” says Dr. Kaminska. “If this is the case for you, try a physical sunscreen to rule out allergies to any active ingredients in chemical sunscreens.”
There are other sources of vitamin D.
“You can get vitamin D from the sun, but to ensure your safety, you should get it through your diet or supplements as well,” says Dr. Kaminska.
Your lips can get sunburned, too.
Apply a lip balm or lipstick with SPF 30 or higher.
Sun exposure inside a car is equivalent to being outside.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on long drives and, if possible, apply a transparent window film to your car’s windows to block UVA and UVB rays. Furthermore, sunroofs directly expose you to the sun, so wear a hat if you roll it back.
Ban base tans.
“Trying to achieve a base tan in a tanning bed before vacation doubles your risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Kaminska.
Use the sun safely.
“Sunshine is fun and it makes you feel good,” says Dr. Kaminska. “Use it safely.”