by: Amanda Davis, Family Practice Resident at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
With Spring Break right around the corner, vacationers need to remember to protect their skin from harmful UV rays.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed sunscreen labeling. Labels that now state “Broad Spectrum,” must protect against both UVA and UVB rays. What are UVA and UVB rays? UVA rays are long rays that penetrate deep into the skin, playing a major part in skin cancer. Damage shows as wrinkles, sagging and premature aging. UVB rays are powerful, short rays that affect the outer layer of skin. These cause sunburns or tans and also cause cancer.
Sunscreens come in two categories, organic (chemical) and inorganic (physical). The creams, lotions and sprays, which populate your local pharmacy shelve are the chemical variety. These types absorb rays and convert them to less harmful amounts of heat on your skin. A physical sunscreen, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, block the rays completely.
Sunscreen is recommended for all skin types from fair to dark. The recommendation for most people is SPF 15. This has been scientifically proven to reduce aging effects and reduce risk of skin cancer. If you work outdoors or spend time in the water, the recommendation is SPF 30. The difference in protection between the two is SPF 15 protects you from 93 percent of rays, while SPF 30 and SPF 50 protect you from 97-98 percent.
The new labeling for “sweat proof” or “water proof” is now “water resistant” or “very water resistant.” For adequate protection, you should apply sunscreen every 40 minutes for “water resistant” and every 80 minutes for “very water resistant.” If you’re not exposed to water, it’s recommended you apply every hour and a half to two hours. Application should be at least one oz (a shot glass full), 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
Children are especially vulnerable to the sun’s rays. Even on a cloudy day, children need sunscreen applied in conjunction with sun protective clothing. Despite cloud cover, 80 percent of the rays can get through. Infants under six months should be in the shade with sunscreen applied to face, hands and feet only if needed. A baby's skin is sensitive and applying any over the counter products should be limited and only done so when it is a must.