Unless you are at high risk for skin cancer, it isn't necessary to be fanatic about avoiding sun exposure.
Options for reducing overexposure (tanning or burning) are listed below. Using a combination
of options is generally more effective than relying on one alone.
Option 1: Minimize Direct Exposure
Stay in the shade whenever possible.
Minimize sun exposure, especially during the peak intensity hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Protect infants from sun exposure to their skin and eyes until they are older than six months.
Option 2: Sunscreen
Routinely apply a waterproof sunblock or sunscreen of SPF 45 or higher when going outdoors.
Sun Protection Factor(SPF) is the time it would take for the first skin redness to occur with sunscreen divided by the time it would take without sunscreen. For example, if your skin normally begins to burn in five minutes without sunscreen,
a properly applied* SPF 30 sunscreen will extend the time to 150 minutes (SPF 30 x 5 minutes = 150 minutes).
SPF ratings of sunscreens are based only on UVB protection, and although most modern sunscreens also include UVA-absorbing ingredients, there is no rating system that allows consumers to determine the degree of UVA protection. The best UVA-protecting sunscreens contain micronized zinc oxide and micronized titanium oxide. An added benefit of these ingredients is that they don't cause allergic reactions like certain organic additives may.
FryFace, a new non-commercial website, lists many popular sunscreens and moisturizers, plus their ingredients. The site was developed by a board-certified dermatologist and has a Product Selector that makes it easy to find the right products based on preferences.
*SPF ratings of most sunscreens are meaningless unless the sunscreens are applied heavily.
Proper Application of Sunscreen
Most people use far less sunscreen than needed for adequate protection. Teens and adults should apply one ounce (a full shotglass) of sunscreen per application for full body protection, and when spending a day at the beach or pool, should go through a full six ounce bottle of sunscreen.
Extra sunscreen should be applied to the nose, under the eyes, and the tops of the ears (or use a sunblock stick). These mid-face areas receive the greatest amount of sun exposure.
Sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before exposure, and reapplied at least once every two hours while outside. It should also be reapplied after swimming, towel-drying, or when perspiring heavily. Even "waterproof" sunscreens wear off while swimming or perspiring.
Active ingredients in sunscreens deteriorate with age and temperature so avoid using a sunscreen that is more than a year old or has been stored in a hot location for a long time.
The Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock
Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb UV radiation, reducing the amount that reaches the skin. Sunblock contains ingredients that act as physical blockers, reflecting UV radiation away from the skin. The two most common physical blockers are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which, in combination, block both UVA and UVB radiation. The distinction between sunscreens and sunblocks has become blurred; many products containing no physical blockers are mislabeled as sunblocks.
How do you know which one to buy? Look for a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against both UVB and UVA radiation based on active ingredients listed on the label.
Ingredients Found in Sunscreen and Sunblock
For UVB protection: Octyl methoxycinnamate, Octyl salicylate, and Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid. There are very few single ingredients that provide high SPF UVB protection, so a combination is generally used.
For partial UVA protection: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone, and Octocrylene.
For broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection: Micronized zinc oxide, micronized titanium oxide, Parsol 1789, and Ecamsule (tradename Mexoryl). A combination of two or more of these ingredients is generally used. Zinc oxide is the single most effective broad-spectrum ingredient. White zinc oxide is a physical UV blocker while micronized (transparent) zinc oxide is a UV absorber. Both white and micronized titanium oxide are physical blockers.
When going outdoors, wear sun protective clothing, including UV-protective glasses and a wide-brim hat.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a rating system similar to SPF, but for clothing. Some clothing is less protective than you may think. A typical T-shirt has a UPF of 5, not enough to prevent sun damage to your skin.
In hot weather, loose fitting, tightly woven fabrics offer good protection. Specialized sun-protective clothing is available from several retailers. Alternatively, a laundry additive called SunGuard makes ordinary clothing such as T-shirts much more UV-protective and is claimed to last through 20 washing cycles.
A wide-brim hat will protect your face, ears, and neck. Wraparound UV-protective sunglasses will protect your eyes. Glasses labeled as UV-protective do not not necessarily protect your eyes adequately or to the same extent. The darkness of the lens, color, or price is not an indicator of the degree of protection. Sunglasses that completely block both UVA and UVB will have one of these labels:
"100% UV Protection"
"Meets ANSI UV Requirements"
Plastic lenses in prescription eyeglasses block 100 percent of UVB radiation and at least 90 percent of UVA radiation. Additional UV protective coatings on plastic lenses are unnecessary.