Summertime is pretty much here, and that means we need to be reminded about the importance of sunscreen use. The number of cases of preventable skin cancers has risen year after year, and 1 in 5 people are now at risk of this serious disease. Did you catch the key word in that statement? Skin cancer is largely preventable. Only 10 percent of diagnosis are not linked to UV damage. Before you head out for your summertime fun, make sure you’re covered.
Sunscreens work in one of two ways. Some of them transmute UV light to heat, so its absorption in the skin is less damaging. This is accomplished by ingredients such as PABA and cinnamates. Some sunscreens are physical in nature, rather than chemical; they scatter light and prevent absorption. These sunscreens usually contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They are known for an obvious white appearance on the skin. Chemical and physical sunscreens are both advantageous. The key is discovering which will best serve you.
Let’s Talk SPF
SPF is one of those tricky terms that can create confusion. Keeping it simple is best. Most skin tones are well-protected by SPF 30, which filters 97% of ultraviolet rays. When choosing a sunscreen, look beyond SPF to find the term broad-spectrum on the tube. That means you gain protection from UVA and UVB light.
Sunscreen by Skin Type
- Children tend to have more sensitive skin. PABA and oxybenzone can be irritating, so be ready to switch if you notice a rash on your child’s skin. Also, spray-sunscreen products are not intended for direct facial application; apply to hands first.
- Dry skin needs moisture from ingredients like lanolin oils or dimethicone.
- Very fair skinned people may want to use SPF 50, however, that only adds about 1% more filtering.
- Dark skin tones may gain protection from SPF 15, but sunscreen is still a must.
- Rosacea, acne, and allergic skin, like children’s skin, may be irritated by oxybenzone and PABA. Use sunscreen for children or for sensitive skin to avoid this.
- Older individuals who cannot reach all body parts may be best served by a spray sunscreen product.
The team in our Midtown Manhattan dermatology practice is here to help you steer clear of skin cancer. To schedule a consultation and skin cancer screening, call (212) 391-8600.