Summer Skin Care

Summer Skin Care
By David F. Jaffe, M.D.

4/14/98

No one can escape the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. That’s why daily protection is very important, since it is estimated that up to two-thirds of your lifetime sun exposure is incidental; i.e., it comes during everyday activities like driving, gardening, walking to and from your car, etc. Exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and over the years contributes to skin cancer, premature wrinkling and other skin damage, and cataracts. Here are ways to minimize damage from the summer sun:

Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Stay in the shade whenever possible and keep infants under 6 months of age out of the sun.

Anyone over the age of 6 months should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that protects against both of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB.

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure to all uncovered skin except the eyelids. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days.

Wear protective clothing: a long-sleeved shirt, pants, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Take special precautions when the National Weather Service’s daily ultraviolet (UV) radiation index predicts UV exposure levels of moderate and above (5 – 10+) or near surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, such as water, snow and sand. Whenever possible, stay inside or in the shade. Use a high-SPF sunscreen or a sunblock.

How do you choose a sunscreen? Choose a broad-spectrum one (one that protects against UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays) with an SPF of at least 15. Realize that an SPF 30 does not give twice the protection of SPF 15. SPF 15 absorbs 93 percent of the sunburning rays, and SPF 30 has a 97 percent absorption.

Use a waterproof sunscreen when you swim outdoors. If you are allergic to sunscreen chemicals, try a “chemical free” sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or simply use zinc oxide cream, which is a sunblock.

It doesn’t matter if the sunscreen is a cream, lotion or gel. Designer labels and brands don’t matter, either. Get one that feels comfortable on your skin…. And use it, to keep your skin young looking, wrinkle free and cancer free!

David F. Jaffe, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Havre de Grace.