There has been quite a lot of confusing advice in the media recently, about what you should do to stay safe in the sun. An FDA ruling a few weeks ago suggested that sun products with SPFs of over 50 were actually no better than lower rated products for protecting our skin, whilst over in the U.S., there are reports of American citizens who are deficient in vitamin D (the sun vitamin). So do we stay out in the sun and cover ourselves in SPF100 or stay indoors or in the shade?
As with all things, moderation and commonsense is the key, but there are some good guidelines for those of us who need a little sunlight in our lives. Read on for all you need to know about staying safe in the sun:
Types of sunscreen
You can rest assured that whether you prefer the newer style mineral sunscreens to a more natural product, both work efficiently to protect you. Dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, of Day Dermatology and Aesthetics says: “All sunscreens are over-the-counter drugs, and are overseen and approved by the FDA.”
So it is a matter of personal preference as to which product you choose, and Dr. Matthew R. Kelleher, M.D., of Premier Dermatology agrees. “Mineral sunscreens such as SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 are thorough, safe, and extremely effective filters of the entire UV spectrum.” he says.
How much do you need to apply?
Once you have chosen your preferred sunscreen product, you’ll need to know how much to put on. The old premise of a “shot glass-full” guideline, or around an ounce of sunscreen still holds true. This is about the amount you can hold in the palm of your hand, and should do for your entire body.
However, if you are planning to be in the sun for a long period of time, or you are swimming a lot, be prepared to keep topping up, even if you are using a waterproof formula. Dr. Kelleher says: “Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours to help you remain protected, or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating.” And remember, you can never overdo sun protection, so it is always best to apply more than is necessary than not enough.
The FDA announced that there is not adequate scientific evidence to prove that SPFs marked over 50 are more effective, however, those of us with particularly fair skin, or those who have a family history of skin cancer, it is still recommended that you use a higher SPF sunscreen. As Dr. Kelleher reminds us: “Since people often use too little sunscreen, and don’t reapply often enough, higher SPF values may be a good idea.”
And don’t think that you can get away with no sun protection, if you are only out in the sun for a few hours. Dr. Day says: “It’s better to always wear sunscreen, because you may end up outside for longer than you realize. I see so many patients with sunburns who say that they didn’t realize how long they were out — it’s easy to lose track of time, or underestimate how strong the sun is.” And if you are worried about no getting enough vitamin D you can always take it in a supplement.
Despite all our best efforts, you can still get sunburn in relatively cloudy weather where the sun is not prominent in the sky. And if you suffer from a sunburn, Dr Day reminds us of the dangers: “A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they’ve had five or more sunburns. Every sunburn damages the DNA of your skin cells, and over time, that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.”
If you have got sunburnt then make sure you treat the affected area properly, by cooling down the skin with a cold compress or a cooling bath, and then applying a topical cortisone cream. Remember however, that people can suffer from sunstroke if their core body temperature is raised so if you start to get a headache or feel sick or faint, get to a hospital.
At what age is sunburn the most dangerous?
According to some studies, we get most of our sun damage by age eighteen. As Dr. Kelleher reiterates: “Americans acquire approximately 23 percent of their sun damage by age eighteen, and get about ten percent more every decade after that.” However, some dermatologists disagree, Dr. Day says: “All sun exposure counts, and it is cumulative, but, the good news is that when you protect your skin from the sun, it can repair some of the past damage that you’ve accumulated — which will make your skin look naturally more beautiful and youthful over time.”