Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunscreen Q & As

Just for clarification, when I say sunscreen, I am referring to either a sunscreen or sunblock. I don’t differentiate between the two because neither a sunscreen nor a sunblock is keeping all the damaging rays off your face. So for simplification, I lump all sun protection products under the heading of sunscreen.

How long should I wait to go outside before my sunscreen is effective?

Generally, dermatologists recommend applying sun products to the skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Without giving the cream or lotion enough time to soak in and penetrate the skin, the effects of the actual sun protection may not be as good. If you have forgotten to apply sunscreen once you are outside, go ahead and apply it—better to have it on than not. For optimum benefits, try to remember to apply it before you go outside.

My day cream doesn’t have a lot of SPF. Is it OK to use sunscreen on top?

I’m not a fan of layering your creams. If you have true-dry skin, it may be OK because your skin is lacking in natural oils and may need the extra layer. But if your skin is oily, problem, or even combination, putting two layers of cream on may be excessive and cause further problems (primarily blackheads and a shiny look to your skin).

Since sunscreens are creams or lotions and have emollient ingredients that help them spread over your skin, I would recommend simply using your sunscreen as your day moisturizer. This way you will get the full benefits of the sunscreen (SPF), and it should be moisturizing enough—especially if you have an oilier skin type.

I’ve started doing some work with a dermatologist at a VA Clinic and in just the short time I’ve been there, I’ve seen so many precancerous and cancerous lesions. The doctor I work for tells his patients to put sunscreen on twice a day, every day, even for just walking to and from the car because damaging sun rays penetrate the car windows. I never wear any kind of sunscreen during the week (since I’m at work all day), and I would like to start. After seeing all the skin cancer, I realize putting a sunscreen on every day is worth lessening my chances of getting skin cancer.

Here is more confirmation that you need to wear sunscreen—every day—no matter what activities you are engaged in. If you work inside an office and truly don’t leave the building except to get there in the morning and leave after the work day is finished, a light-textured SPF 15 is probably all that you need. For outside activities, you want to wear something that is applicable for that kind of exposure. A waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen would be most appropriate.

Even though you’re wearing a waterproof or water-resistant sun product, you still need to reapply after you have been in the sun for over an hour. When you initially apply the cream, don’t forget to put some on your ears, behind your ears, and in that ridge between your earlobe and cheek. If you have short hair or are wearing it up under your hat, don’t forget the back of your neck, which is a common place to get sun exposure and sunburn.

I want to emphasize this point: whether you are wearing a sunscreen or a sunblock, whether they block UVA, UVB, or both, and even when you reapply frequently, you are still receiving sun exposure. There is no way to block out all of the sun’s damaging rays unless you are inside a building, away from a window. Wear sunscreen and get your moles checked at the dermatologist. Take care of your skin—and your future.

For more information, see: