A Quick Guideline to Sunscreen
Summer is upon us, and shopping the sunscreen aisles can be overwhelming. Johns Creek Dermatology, serving patients in South Forsyth, Gwinnett and North Fulton counties and the surrounding North Atlanta area, recommends several lines of pharmaceutical grade sunscreen products carried in our practice, but for the rest of the family’s use an over-the-counter product may be more practical. However it is important to remember that not all sunscreens are created equal. One brand of sunscreen may contain ingredients that are better suited for a child’s sensitive skin, while others may offer high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) capability.
The key to simplicity is to select the sunscreen with the best sun protection appropriate for all family members – that has broad spectrum protection, is water and sweat resistant, and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Don’t forget that sunscreen use is most effective when supplemented with other sun smart activities – limit hours of exposure around peak intensity periods, seek shade when possible, wear sun protective clothing, sunglasses and hats, and avoid use of tanning beds.
To help you select the best overall sunscreen product for your family composition, Dr. Timani provides information to answer common questions about sunscreen and address safety concerns.
What SPF Do I Need?
There are so many choices of SPF available, as consumers we tend to believe that the higher SPF the better. But in actuality no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Dr. Timani recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun’s rays. A higher SPF can block slightly more UVA/UVB rays, but re-application every two hours is the key to sunscreen’s effectiveness. Especially when outdoors, after swimming or when exercising and sweating.
How to Protect Small Children?
UV damage can happen at any age, but it begins to occur during childhood, and accumulates throughout life. The more frequent one is exposed to UV rays without proper protection, the greater the risk of developing melanoma or skin cancer as an adult.
The delicate skin of babies and toddlers is particularly susceptible to sunburn and UV damage. Babies under 6 months should not spend time directly in the sun, particularly since their skin is so sensitive, and sunscreens are not recommended to keep them safe from chemicals applied directly to their skin. Dr. Timani suggests keeping babies in the shade as much as possible, and to dress them in protective clothing. If they allow it, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses add another layer of protection. For children older than 6 months, sunscreen can be applied to exposed skin not covered by clothing. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are most appropriate for the thinner skin small children as these ingredients are less likely to cause irritation because they don’t penetrate the skin.
Sunscreen Type is a Personal Choice
The benefits of preventing sunburn, short- and long-term damage to the skin from sun exposure, and skin cancer have been scientifically proven to exceed any unproven concerns for toxicity or human health hazard from sunscreen ingredients.
Sunscreen type is a personal choice, and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected. Common sunscreen choices include sprays, lotions, gels, ointments, and wax sticks.
- Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
- Gels work well on hairy areas like the scalp or a man’s chest.
- Sticks are easily maneuvered around the eyes.
- Sprays are the easiest to apply, especially on squirmy children, and it is convenient to apply it to a balding scalp.However, the potential exists when using spray sunscreens to end up with inadequate coverage on all exposed areas and miss spots on the body which end up sunburned. In addition, spray sunscreen is not intended to be applied directly to the face as it can end up in the eyes, nostrils or mouth. Instead, spray an adequate amount of sunscreen into your hands and then apply the sunscreen to facial areas. The other disadvantage of spray sunscreens is that they are subject to wind, so to avoid inhalation one must be conscious of wind direction.
Pharmaceutical Grade Sunscreens Available at Johns Creek Dermatology
For those that prefer a more specialized sunscreen product for the face or body, such as one with a matte finish or combined with a tinted moisturizer, Dr. Timani recommends one of the pharmaceutical grade products available at the office. Try one of the following:
Revision Intellishade: Formulated with an advanced peptide and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, this tinted moisturizer gives skin a touch of sheer, healthy color.
Obagi: Several sunscreen choices are available from this vendor including choice of: matte finish; non-comegenetic; gentle rejuvenation; anti-aging repair; and micronized zinc oxide/octinoxate broad spectrum.
Elizabeth Arden Rx: Triple Protection Factor SPF 50 combines sun and anti-oxidant protection with correction to skin appearance.
Whatever sunscreen is preferable, be sure to apply it generously to achieve the UV protection indicated on the product label. For adults, a convenient guideline for creams or gels is to apply one teaspoon of sunscreen to your face, scalp each arm, and feet and hands. For your body, back and legs two teaspoons of sunscreen should cover. If you have any questions about which type of sunscreen is right for you and your family, be sure to talk with Dr. Timani at our convenient location in Johns Creek.