Sunscreen Advice

There has been much debate about the safety of sunscreen in the media lately. Since Coloradoans are exposed to plenty of sunshine, and our altitude means that there is a generous dose of radiation with that sunshine, we thought it would be important to review some basic sunscreen facts.

We know that sun exposure causes squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. We also know that sunscreen can prevent those two cancers. A broad spectrum, high SPF sunscreen applied at regular intervals is a critical part of cancer prevention for children and adults.

In general, we don’t recommend sunscreen for children under 6 months. There high skin to body mass ratio means that they are more at risk of absorbing and being affected by chemicals applied to the skin. The best protection for infants is hats, long sleeved shirts and pants, and staying in the shade.

After 6 months, we recommend a broad spectrum (meaning borth UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen of SPF 30 or above applied at least every 2 hours while outside. If swimming or sweating, then apply no less frequently than every 80 minutes.

A word of caution – many so called ‘natural’ sunscreens have been shown to have less protection against harmful radiation than the SPF claimed on the label. If you are concerned about chemicals, dermatologists recommend zinc and titanium dioxide for maxiumum protection with minimum chemical exposure.

Some quick sunscreen recommendations:

  • Apply at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun
  • Hats, long sleeves, and shade are still important protections, even with sunscreen
  • Apply approximately 1 oz (1 shot glass full) for the average adult
  • Use SPF 30 or above, and waterproof sunscreen is preferred
  • Use it every time, and reapply regularly
  • Spray sunscreens are still be evaluated by the FDA for effectiveness – if you use spray sunscreen at a minimum use plenty and be sure to rub it in and try to avoid inhaling it.
  • Creams are best for face and dry skin
  • Gels are best for hairy areas
  • Sticks are good for around the eyes
  • Lips are a common place for skin cancer to occur- don’t forget lip protection!

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