The 411 on sunscreen

It is getting to be the time of year when we pull out the sunscreen (usually from last year) from under the sink. Mistake. You should have used all that sunscreen last year and even if you didn’t – after being in the hot sun at the beach and the park, it is likely the sunscreen isn’t in top shape.

For best results with sunscreen follow these simple tips:

  1. Get new sunscreen each year. Sunscreen breaks down in the heat and doesn’t hold up well after a year. Old sunscreen can also cause rashes!
  2. Make sure to get a broad spectrum (protecting against UVB and UVA) that provides at least an SPF 30.
  3. Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, it doesn’t last any longer than that. You will need to reapply every 40-80 minutes if you are sweating or in the water.
  4. The SPF on the bottle is the protection under ideal (i.e. lab testing) application. The protection you get with typical application is probably half of what the bottle says. So if the bottle says SPF 15, the effective protection is an SPF 8- which is comparable to a tanning cream. For minimal protection you must use at least SPF 30 and reapply every 2-3 hours.
  5. If you have sensitive skin look for sunscreens that contain only zinc and titanium (known as physical blockers). These can leave a white sheen but newer micronized versions are very nice. My favorite brands for sensitive skin are EltaMD (physical and pure) and Blue Lizard.
  6. If you have acne look for sunscreens for acne prone skin – others can clog pores and cause breakouts. My favorite is EltaMD UV Clear.
  7. Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days and inside. UV light comes through the clouds and the windows.

When used appropriately sunscreen is a very helpful tool to keep your skin safe during the summer.

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