You’ve planned all year long, dreamed about it, checked your lists, made reservations, had your car serviced.   You count the days before it’s here.  You pull out the lawn furniture, you prep the grill for those mouth watering grilling foods.  You find that neglected book you’ve been planning to read, you rotate the clothes in your closet, you make lists of everything you are going to get done–yep I’m talking summertime–the anticipated three month hiatus from the everyday grind.

Did You Forget Anything?

I bet that in all of your preparation for summer fun there is one thing you have forgotten.  It’s a simple thing but almost always overlooked.  It’s that” take- it- for- granted” tube or bottle of sun screen.  So you rush to your favorite store, grab something (usually whatever is on sale), return home and sigh a sigh of relief because NOW you are prepared for summer fun.   Wait!  There are….

Ten Things You Need To Know About Sunscreen

1.  SPF indicates the amount of time it takes to turn slightly red 24 hours after sun exposure–NOT how much sun protection is delivered. The FDA defines SPF as the amount of time it takes to produce minimal redness (sun burn) in the skin via UVB exposure.  SPF only applies to UVB light–the burning ray.

2.  Wearing a high SPF provides a false sense of security. 1) The SPF rating only applies to UVB protection, not the amount of UVA protection that’s delivered, which may be low or non-existant.  UVA contributes more to aging than UVB.  It has been found to cause a high percentage of melanomas.  2) Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen to get the SPF stated on the container.  3) Since even the highest SPF sunscreens are depleted as they lower UV energy rays, sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours to achieve the stated SPF.

3.  There’s no such thing as a sun block product.   No sunscreen completely blocks UV rays.  An SPF 15 protects against 93 percent of UV rays.   SPF 30 protects against 97 percent.  SPF 50 wards off 98 percent, SPF 98 about 99 percent–and these percentages only apply if you rub on the same amount of sunscreen that was used in the test to determine SPF.  If not, even less protection is delivered.  Erase from your brain cells the word “sunblock”. There is no such thing unless you are saying “there’s no such thing as sunblock”.

4.  Once skin is burned, applying more sunscreen won’t prevent additional burning.  This is a dangerous common myth.  The FDA requires labels to say “reapply every two hours.”  What the label should say is “reapply every two hours if skin is not red”.  Remember that sunscreens don’t completely block the sun, a little UV always gets through.  The danger is if the skin is already burned, this small amount of UV continues to add to the existing burn. Applying sunscreen over a burn won’t provide additional protection.  It’s time to get out of the sun!

5.  The redness you see may not be sunburn.  Most sunscreens work by lowering the UV energy into the heat ray spectrum.  The intense heat is felt on the skin while you are in the sun.  If you have rosacea, this heat can trigger a redness episode so be sure to use a sunscreen with zinc oxide which doesn’t work on UV in the same way.

6.  Sunscreens in moisturizers, moisture tints, foundations, powders, lipsticks, and BB creams aren’t delivering the SPF protection you think they are. The amount of sunscreen required by the FDA during SPF testing procedure is more than what people apply in “real life”.   To have the protection of a SPF 15 you would have to use:

a. An entire tube of lipstick in one application

b. Apply 7 times the amount of foundation you would normally wear

c. Apply two full fingers of moisturizer

d. The FDA has ordered SPF claims to be removed from mineral powder makeup

e. SPF claims have been ordered to be removed from wipes

7.  15 + 15=15.  Layering one product with SPF 15 over another product with SPF 15 won’t yield an SPF of 30. But it could layer enough sunscreen protection to provide the SPF 15 both products claim.

8.  SPF doesn’t indicate the amount of time you can safely stay in the sun.  Climate, altitude, time of year, medication, disease, cloud cover and reflective surfaces–water, sand, snow, and cement can increase the effect of UV hitting the skin.  If you sun burn while out in your backyard for 15 minutes in the month of June, then you would be able to stay out in your backyard during June for three and a half hours with a SPF 15.   However, if you go to a high altitude location such as Park City, Utah, in June on a cloudy day, and have been taking medication for several days-making the skin more sun sensitive-than you will burn faster even though the SPF 15 is the same.  The SPF can be cut in half in the above scenario allowing you to stay in the sun for less than two hours.  Remember:  SPF changes according to the environment and conditions of exposure.  Adjust your time in the sun accordingly because the reality is that no time in the sun is completely safe since the one or two percent of rays that get through SPF’s 50 and 99 still damage DNA and dermal proteins.

9.  The darker the skin, the less likely it is to burn.  Although this may be true, “less” is still “some”.   Even the darkest complexions only provide enough protection to equal about an SPF of 12.  So regardless of skin color wear a SPF 15 or higher when in the sun.

10.  Octinoxate – the most common sunscreen ingredient in the world – does not cause cancer.  Contrary to statements made every few years by journalists, or cosmetic brands who like to use the phrase “linked to cancer” referencing octinoxate, The Skin Deep Report published by the Environmental Working  Group states there is “no information” about oxtinoxate as a cause of cancer.

11.  There’s no such thing as a chemical-free or non-chemical sunscreen.  Everything you see or touch is a chemical or made of chemicals—even air and the container that holds the sunscreen are made of chemicals.  Ingredients that are usually referred to as “chemical-free” are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide because it was once thought they just “blocked” out sun rays rather than reacting with them chemically to lower UV energy into the realm of heat energy.  We now know that these sunscreens chemically interfere with UV, even though this misnomer has stuck around.

It’s summertime so enjoy your time in the sun but be smart about your exposure and don’t forget your sunscreen.  And when the day is over, pamper your skin and yourself with KelaKare Cleansing Gel and KelaKare Lotion.

Dr. Janeel Henderson