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Wellness@Work: Tips for selecting and using sunscreen 

Tips for selecting and using sunscreen 

Tips for selecting and using sunscreen 

By Kimberly Donnellan, M.D., F.A.C.S.
USA Health Midtown

Warmer weather means more time outdoors, and since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, this is a great reminder about the importance of using sunscreen. 

Skin cancers are the most common types of cancer, but also the most treatable, especially when detected early. Besides regular screenings, always use sunscreen to protect your skin and yourself. 

Understanding sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Here are some key points to keep in mind:   

  • SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF indicates the level of protection a sunscreen provides against UVB rays, which are primarily responsible for sunburns. The higher the SPF number, the greater the protection. It is recommended to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.   
  • Broad-spectrum protection. Look for sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection, which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can cause premature aging and skin damage, while UVB rays can cause sunburn.   
  • Water-resistant formulas. If you're swimming or sweating, choose a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply it every 80 minutes (or as directed on the label). Water-resistant formulas are more likely to stay effective even when exposed to water or sweat.   
  • Apply generously. To get the full protection indicated on the sunscreen label, apply a generous amount to all exposed skin areas at least 15 minutes before going outside. Don't forget commonly overlooked areas like ears, hands, feet, and the back of the neck.   
  • Reapply regularly. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Even if you're using a water-resistant sunscreen, regular reapplication is important for continued protection.   
  • Check expiration dates. Sunscreen can lose its effectiveness over time, so make sure to check the expiration date on the bottle before using it. Expired sunscreen may not provide adequate protection.   
  • Additional protection. Sunscreen should be just one part of your sun protection routine. Wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and hats, seek shade during peak sun hours, and avoid prolonged sun exposure to further protect your skin.   

By understanding these key points and following proper sunscreen usage practices, you can help protect your skin from sun damage and reduce the risk of sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. 

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