Staying Safe Under the Sun

It’s summer and you are probably ready for a fun-filled weekend. But are you doing everything you can to protect yourself from the sun?

During these hot days of summer, you may want to go to the beach or lay out under the sun. But too much sun can be harmful, causing your skin to look dry, wrinkled, blotchy and leathery; even worse, extended sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

One way to protect yourself from the sun’s UVB and UVA rays, both of which can harm your skin, is to always wear sunscreen. Choosing the right sunscreen and understanding how to use it can help reduce skin damage.

For protection against UVB rays, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you choose a sunscreen that states the following on the label:

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  • Broad spectrum
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistant or very water resistant

For protection against UVA rays, take a look at the ingredient label and make sure one of the following is listed: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone or zinc oxide.

There are also organic, or natural, sunscreen options that use zinc oxide. These may be a good option if you have skin problems, allergies or prefer a natural product. But you should be wary of these and discuss with your doctor if you have a condition that would necessitate using natural sunscreen.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the use of sunscreen, leading individuals to avoid its use or to flock to ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ sunscreens that have not been tested by the FDA,” said Ashley Wysong, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical dermatology at USC Dermatology of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of Mohs (a new surgical technique) and dermatologic surgery at Keck Medicine of USC. “This is very risky, and it’s important for individuals to be well-informed and to discuss these decisions with their dermatologist.”

If you do opt for natural sunscreen, you should make sure it is SPF 30 or higher, meaning that it will block out 97 percent of the sun’s harmful rays.

You may have heard that using sunscreen blocks vitamin D. Harvard Health has found that while sunscreen prevents sunburn by blocking UVB light, few people apply enough sunscreen to block all light and use it too irregularly to make an impact on vitamin D absorption.

If you’re worried about vitamin D, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends eating a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D and/or vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So don’t be afraid to apply and reapply sunscreen, as needed.

By Cindy Lopez