How To Choose A Sunscreen

The first days of summer are officially here, both from an astronomical perspective and from the change in weather patterns.  Even though I preach using sunscreens every single day of the year, even on cloudy days, most folks only think of sunscreen use in the summer, thereby prompting this blog post reminder.

Choosing the appropriate sunscreen for you can help decrease the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by ultraviolet light exposure.  The cost of sunscreen is a small price to pay compared to the pain, scarring, and even death that can be caused by skin cancer.

Currently, 20% of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with melanoma being the deadliest form of this most common form of human cancer.  The majority of this kind of cancer is preventable with skin protection.

When you are in a store or online (or in my office) buying sunscreen, you need to be on the lookout for 3 pieces of vital information on the label to see if the product is the right sunscreen for you:

  1. SPF.  This stands for Sun Protection Factor.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF level of 30 or higher if you are going to be outside in the summer.
  2. Broad Spectrum. This means that the product will protect your skin from both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB) rays.  Both these forms of light energy can cause skin cancer and contribute to premature photoaging, which results in early wrinkling, age spots, and broken blood vessels.
  3. Water Resistant.  Sunscreens can no longer claim to be waterproof or sweat-proof according to FDA standards.  They can only claim to be water resistant if they remain protective on the skin after exposure to water for 40-80 minutes.  Obviously, if you are not going to be in the water following your application of sunscreen, this will not be critical.  One downside to water resistant sunscreens is that they tend to be thicker and do not blend in with your skin as well.

As you may know, we do carry several sunscreens here at Maine Laser Skin Care, both in the office and online.  These sunscreens, which were formulated by a dermatologist who is an expert in aesthetic and laser methods, also contain a moisturizer.  They are also lightly tinted and can be applied easily by themselves and under makeup.

Most people ask how much sunscreen they should use.  It is a very good question.

In general, one ounce of sunscreen (i.e. enough to fill a shot glass) is considered to be a sufficient amount to cover the exposed areas of the body.  This is definitely a case of where an ounce of prevention is literally worth even more than a pound of cure.

If you have any questions about particular sunscreens or would like to have your skin assessed for prior sun damage, call us at (207) 873-2158 for a free and confidential consultation where we can plan a course of action that would be appropriate for you.  Enjoy the beautiful weather for which we have waited all winter, but be safe from the sun with that daily ounce of prevention.

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