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Importance of Sunscreen

Posted on: July 1st, 2024 by Dr. Michelle Pennie

There’s one skin care product that every single person needs in their everyday routine—sunscreen! 

Living in Florida means enjoying plenty of sunshine year-round. However, it also means taking extra precautions to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen tops the list of daily skin care essentials, shielding against harmful UV rays, and preventing premature aging and skin cancer. 

UV radiation, measured by the National Weather Service, indicates the daily strength of UV radiation on a scale from 0 to 15. UV radiation data is measured for major US cities in most weather apps and weather reports on the news show the “UV Index.” The higher the number, the quicker skin damage in direct sunlight can occur. Here in Florida, just 15-25 minutes in the sun without protection can harm your skin cells—this is why sunscreen is so important! It’s not just for beach or pool days but everyday use, making it a vital part of maintaining a healthy life.

With all the different sunscreens on the shelves, how do you know which is best for you? A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more protects you from incidental sun exposure that occurs every day, but most dermatologists and skin cancer experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher. Your sunscreen should also be broad spectrum, to protect against UVA and UVB rays, and it should be water resistant. 

Here are a few tips to get the most out of our beautiful Florida weather without sacrificing your skin. 

Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

To begin, a broad spectrum sunscreen is best. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of UV radiation you need to protect yourself from: UVA and UVB. 

UVB rays cause sunburn and play a key role in developing skin cancer. A sunscreen’s SPF number refers to the amount of UVB protection it provides.

UVA rays cause skin damage that leads to tanning as well as skin aging and wrinkles. The shortest wavelengths of UVA rays also contribute to sunburn. 

Broad spectrum provides protection against both, providing a barrier that absorbs or reflects UV radiation before it can do damage to your skin. 

Yet, sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB radiation are only part of the story. It is now widely recognized that near Infrared (IRA; 760–1400 nm), Visible Light (400–760 nm), and Blue Light can induce skin damage. In addition to UVA and UVB protection, the best sunscreen also protects from Infrared, Visible Light and Blue Light.

Mineral sunscreens or sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide provide the best protection from the full spectrum of light.

SPF is VIP

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) value is the level of sunburn protection provided. All sunscreen is labeled with an SPF value—the higher SPF, the greater the protection. While most dermatologists recommend a minimum of SPF 30, the level you choose may be higher, depending on your skin type, sun exposure, and other factors. 

FDA approved sunscreens are tested to measure the amount of UV radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when using a sunscreen compared to when you don’t. For example, with SPF 30 it would take you 30x longer to burn than if you weren’t using sunscreen. Because SPF values are determined from a test that measures protection against sunburn caused by UVB rays, SPF values only indicate a sunscreen’s UVB protection, so be sun smart and wear hats and sunglasses, and seek shade when available. 

Choosing the Right Sunscreen for You

Not all sunscreens are the same. The following list will help you find a sunscreen that’s right for your skin type.

Acne-prone skin: Look for the words “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores”.

Allergy-prone skin: Avoid sunscreen that contains fragrance, parabens, or oxybenzone (benzophenone-2, benzophenone-3, dioxybenzone, mexenone, sulisobenzone, or sulisobenzone sodium).

Around your eyes: To prevent sunscreen from dripping into your eyes, use a sunscreen stick around your eyes. Make sure the stick has an SPF 30 (or higher), broad-spectrum protection, and water resistance.

Children: If your child is 6 months of age or older, use a sunscreen made for children. Most contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. 

Dry skin: Look for “moisturizing” or “dry skin” on the label.

Lips: Lip balm with SPF 30+ and broad-spectrum protection.

Oily skin: Look for the words “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores.”

Rosacea: Use a sunscreen that contains only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Many sunscreens for children contain only these 2 ingredients.

Sensitive skin: Use sunscreen with the words “sensitive skin” on the label. Avoid products with fragrance, parabens, or oxybenzone (benzophenone-2, benzophenone-3, dioxybenzone, mexenone, sulisobenzone, or sulisobenzone sodium).

Skin stings or burns when you apply sunscreen: Use a sunscreen that contains only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Many sunscreens for children use only these 2 ingredients. Avoid sunscreen with fragrance.

Apply, reapply, repeat!

Sunscreen is not a “one and done.” deal. The UV protection in sunscreen wears off after about two hours, and that time flies by when you’re having fun, especially if you’re in the water. To stay protected all day, you should reapply every two hours. If you’re doing water sports, swimming or sweating a lot, you’ll need to reapply more often.

Don’t be afraid to be generous when slathering it on! Many people don’t apply enough sunscreen in the first application, so they aren’t getting the same level of protection as stated on the label. Make sure to apply sunscreen to often forgotten areas like the ears, back of the neck, and top of the feet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

In addition to sunscreen, wear sun protective (UPF) clothing, such as hats, sunglasses and seek shade whenever possible. These extra precautions will help enhance your protection against the sun’s harmful rays for optimal skin care. 

Wearing sunscreen everyday is one of the best and easiest ways to protect your skin’s appearance and health. Regular use helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer, premature aging, and is an important way to reduce negative side effects from harmful UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. Now that you fully understand the importance of sunscreen, get out there and enjoy a beautiful day–safely! 

Visit Bliss Dermatology today to purchase your medical-grade sunscreen essentials and schedule your regular skin exams!

 

At a Glance

Michelle Pennie, MD

  • Board-Certified Dermatologist
  • Fellowship-Trained Mohs Surgeon
  • Founder and Lead Dermatologist of Bliss Dermatology
  • Learn more

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