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Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Small Sunscreen Lecture

I was talking with a client today about sunscreen use, a subject I discuss with people all the time. Unfortunately protection from the sun and sunscreen products are all too misunderstood, and even worse they are used (many times) incorrectly. So who really knows how much sun protection we are getting?

Rule #1: You have to reapply your sun cream at least every few hours to be sure you are getting UV protection. For instance, putting sunscreen on during your morning skin routine and then taking a walk outside for lunch just doesn’t cut it in terms of protecting your skin from UV exposure.

Many people want to know about all the high SPF sun products available and if they are more protective than lower values. My answer is perhaps higher SPFs offer more protection, but the higher the SPF, the more chemicals you are getting on your skin. Sometimes more is not better. [UPDATE: Since 2012, the FDA set new rules to limit SPFs to no more than a 50. They did this to stop people from feeling falsely armed against all UV radiation if they were wearing, for instance, an SPF of 100.]

Rule #2: Wear hats! I am a huge proponent of hats, namely wide-brimmed hats. Visors and baseball caps are better than nothing, but they are only really protecting the top of your head, forehead, perhaps and some of your nose and tops of cheeks. They do nothing for the bottom half of your face. A wide-brimmed hat will give you a lot more protectionincluding your ears. You can check how much sun is still getting on your face with whatever hat you have on by looking at your reflection in either a window of your car (as you’re standing outside the car) or a window of a building as you’re walking by. It might surprise you how little sun protection you’re gettingespecially with a baseball cap.

The time of day will also influence how protective a hat will be. At high-noon when the sun is directly above you, you will get the most protection from just about any hat. Wide-brimmed hats will give you more protection throughout the day then caps and visors, but stillyou will most likely be receiving sun somewhere on your face no matter the style of hat you are wearing.

Recently I had a client with a lot of sun damage on her ears from only wearing visors when she’s out in the sun. Please remember to put sunscreen on your ears or face the consequences, which can be not only burning that delicate tissue, but eventually the possibility of precancerous and cancerous spots on and/or around your ears.

My spiel is if I could only wear a hat with no sunscreen or sunscreen with no hat I would 100% of the time choose a hat without sunscreen. However that is just said to make my point; obviously I am a supporter of using both. I think you get where I’m going with this: Protect your skin! Andhave fun in the sun. Life is short and you have to choose your battles.

To get a better idea of how to protect your skin in the sun, see: