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What you need to know about sunscreen

What you need to know about sunscreen
By John Lee, DO, Methodist Family Medicine - Atkinson

It’s that time of year again, a time where the sun is shining and everyone is outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Store shelves are stocked with swimsuits, beach towels and most importantly, sunscreen. It's easy to select a swimsuit or beach towel but how do you know which sunscreen is right for you and your family?

Many letters appear on sunscreen bottles but what do they all mean? Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the sunscreens ability to protect against Ultraviolet B (UVB) but does not measure the protection of Ultraviolet A (UVA). Since UVA makes up about 95% of the UV radiation we receive, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created new regulations that only sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays be labeled as broad spectrum.

Sunscreens that meet FDA guidelines and have a SPF of 15 or higher help decrease the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun when used as directed. Sunscreen that is water resistant will only maintain its SPF for 40 to 80 minutes of water activity.

Everyone can be affected by UV radiation. Those with lighter skin pigmentation should use SPF of 30 or higher. SPF 50 or higher only provides a small amount of increased protection. Individuals with any sun exposure should use at least SPF 15. Infants younger than six months should not use sunscreen but should use appropriate shade and clothing. If this is not available, a small amount of sunscreen may be applied.

Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all sun exposed parts of skin and reapplied every two hours or sooner if exposed to water. An average sized adult should apply an equivalent of a one ounce shot glass of sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to being in the sun to allow the protective film to form on the skin.

About Dr. John Lee
Dr. John Lee is a board-certified family medicine physician who provides care at Methodist Family Medicine in the Atkinson building located at 1413 North Elm Street in Henderson. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lee, please call 270-827-8662.