Sunscreen is a vital part of your summer survival toolkit – but it can be challenging to choose the right kind and maximize its effectiveness. Read on for tips and advice to keep your skin safe while you have fun in the sun!
Sun damage – including sunburn – is caused by exposure to UV radiation.
No sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation, so the best way to limit exposure is to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are the strongest.
When you are outdoors, seek out shade – or bring your own in the form of an umbrella or wide-brimmed hat. Wear cool, comfortable clothing that covers your body loosely and don’t forget your UV-blocking sunglasses.
Tips for Selecting Sunscreen
Facing down an aisle of sunscreen creams, sprays and sticks can be overwhelming. Here are some key things to look for:
#1 – Opt for ‘Broad-Spectrum’ Sunscreen.
Choose a ‘broad-spectrum’ sunscreen, which will filter out both UVB and UVA rays. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires all sunscreens to pass a broad spectrum test or carry a skin cancer/skin aging warning.
#2 – Check the SPF.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, which will block about 97 percent of UVB rays. Remember – a higher SPF doesn’t mean it will last longer. All sunscreens need to be reapplied regularly.
#3 – Don’t Always Believe the “Waterproof” hype.
There’s no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen. Sunscreen can be labeled water resistant up to a set time (40 or 80 minutes), which is how long you can expect to get the SPF-level of protection while swimming or sweating.
#4 – Zinc oxide & titanium dioxide offer maximum protection.
For sensitive areas of the body (ears, nose, cheeks and shoulders), zinc oxide or titanium dioxide offer maximum protection. These products may stay visible after you rub them in, and some come in bright colors that kids will enjoy!
#5 – Follow the instructions to ensure proper coverage.
When it comes to the great sunscreen debate of cream versus spray versus stick, there’s no easy answer. Your best bet is to read and follow the application instructions to ensure proper coverage – and remember to never use spray sunscreen on your face or near an open flame.
Apply, Apply and Re-Apply
Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all exposed skin every day, all year – even if it’s cloudy. Use a generous amount (at least an ounce to cover an entire body) and pay close attention to the face, ears, feet, hands, and backs of the knees.
For maximum protection, put sunscreen on at least 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside so it has time to absorb into your skin. Reapply every two hours – especially if you have been sweating or swimming.
A note about babies & sunscreen: Sunscreen is not recommended for infants. If your baby is younger than 6 months-old, keep him/her out of direct sunlight and consult your pediatrician before applying sunscreen.
Remedies for Sunburn Relief
If, despite your best efforts, you or a family member find yourself with a sunburn, these simple steps may help you feel better:
- Drink extra water to replenish any fluids that may have been lost while you were in the sun.
- Take a cool bath to reduce the heat.
- Over-the-counter medications like hydrocortisone cream and aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce pain.
- Avoid the sun and other outdoor activities until the sunburn is completely healed.
Emergency Services for Children
Learn more about our Children’s Hospital and the services we offer. We also offer a wide range of adult and pediatric urgent care services throughout Wake County. Find an Urgent Care location near you.