A Word About Sunscreen

September 17th, 2015

Protection from the sun is very important for everyone’s skin, and especially for children. They burn easily because of lower pigment levels and thinner outer layers of their skin.
The very best protection is shade, protective clothing, or a hat – but second best is sunscreen.

SPF
SPF stands for “sun protection factor” – and it gives you a number that stands for how much it amplifies the native protection in your own skin. SPF 30 means it multiplies your own skin’s ability to handle sun without burning thirty times. So if you can stay out in the sun without burning for 20 minutes – SPF 30 should protect you for 10 hours. BUT – commercial chemical sunscreens start to break down after 2 hours!

UVA and UVB
UVB rays are the sun’s rays that give us a suntan or a burn (think B=Burn) and also contribute to our risk of skin cancer. UVA rays are more long term damaging rays that cause photoaging and also cause skin cancer (think A=Aging). It’s important to protect against both kinds of rays! UVB rays can be partially or totally blocked by cloudy days or by the glass of a window – but UVA rays will pass right through both. SPF only refers to the sunscreen’s ability to protect from UVB rays!

Broad spectrum
Looking for a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection ensures you will get the UVA protection you need. Before December 2012 sunscreens could claim broad spectrum protection even with very little UVA blockage. The FDA has now regulated the term “broad spectrum” to indicate that it must possess a minimum of UVA protection. That level of protection isn’t quantified like the UVB protection with SPF (yet!) – so reapply every 2 hours to get the best protection.

Mineral vs Chemical screens
Mineral sunscreens or “physical sunblocks” contain zinc and titanium. These large molecules physically cover the skin and deflect UV rays. Zinc blocks UVA and UVB, while titanium blocks UVB and some UVA. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and then absorb the UV radiation. They break down with time and radiation absorption. The two advantages to mineral sunscreens are that they don’t degrade (so they’re active as long as they don’t get wiped or rinsed off) and they tend to cause fewer skin allergies because they’re not absorbed. Zinc compounds are the best, but they are very thick and hard to apply – so they’re usually mixed with titanium or other agents. Zinc concentration of 5% in a lotion will provide necessary UVA blockage.

Waterproof
This term is misleading! The FDA had determined that no sunscreen is waterproof and that all must be reapplied when skin is exposed to the water. Water resistant sunscreens will last a little longer when swimming – but be careful and reapply any lotion frequently if swimming or sweating.

Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and apply every two hours – more frequently if sweating or swimming! A zinc containing sunscreen should last longer, but be careful it isn’t rinsed or sweated off!
for more information visit http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children

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