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Sunscreen Q&A - Part 1 of 3

Q. Who needs to use sunscreen?

A. In a word: everyone!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Dermatology recognize six skin categories:

  1. Type I Always burns easily, never tans, extremely sun sensitive skin Example: Red-headed, freckles, Irish/Scots/Welsh
  2. TYPE ll Always burns easily, tans minimally, very sun sensitive skin. Example: Fair-skinned, fair-haired, blue-eyed, Caucasians
  3. TYPE III Sometimes burns, tans gradually to light brown, sun sensitive skin. Example: Average skin
  4. TYPE IV Burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown, minimally sun sensitive Example: Mediterranean-type Caucasians
  5. TYPE V Rarely burns, tans well, sun insensitive skin. Example: Middle Eastern, some Hispanics, some African-Americans
  6. TYPE VI Never burns, deeply pigmented, sun insensitive skin. Example: African-Americans

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that, regardless of skin type, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be used year-round

Q. When should sunscreen be used?

A. Sunscreens should be used every day if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.

They can be applied under makeup. There are many cosmetic products available today that contain sunscreens for daily use because sun protection is the principal means of preventing premature aging and skin cancer.

Sunscreens used on a regular basis actually allow some repair of damaged skin.

Since sun exposure is responsible for vitamin D production in the skin, individuals who wear sunscreen and are concerned that they are not getting enough vitamin D should take a multivitamin or drink vitamin D fortified milk.

The sun's reflective powers are great - 17 percent on sand and 80 percent on snow. Don't reserve the use of these products only for sunny summer days. Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.

Q. How much sunscreen should be used, and how often should it be applied?

A. Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.

When applying sunscreen, pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands and arms, and coat the skin liberally.

One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly.

Be careful to cover exposed areas completely - a missed spot could mean a patchy, painful sunburn. Don't forget that lips get sunburned too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Sunscreens should be re-applied every 2 hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily.

Even so-called water resistant sunscreens may lose their effectiveness after 80 minutes in the water. Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so if you've towel-dried reapply waterproof sunscreen for continued protection.

Don't forget that sun exposure occurs all the time, even while you're taking a short walk on a cloudy day.

Q. What type of sunscreen should I use, and what ingredients should I look for?

A. There are so many types of sunscreen that selecting the right one can be quite confusing.

Sunscreens are available in many forms including ointments, creams, gels, lotions and wax sticks. The type of sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice.

Ideally, sunscreens should be water resistant, so they cannot be easily removed by sweating or swimming, and should have an SPF of 15 or higher that provides broad-spectrum coverage against all ultraviolet light wavelengths.

Ingredients which provide broad-spectrum protection include benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone (Parsol 1789).

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Sunscreen - Part 2

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