Don’t Get Burned!

A Quick Guide to Protecting Yourself While Still Getting the Benefits of the Sun

The sun is an extremely welcoming sight, especially after the long, cold winter that has been had. However, with the change of the weather bringing more people out of their homes, we again need to revisit proper sun protection techniques.

Despite all the negative talk about the sun – especially, sunburns and the risk of skin cancer – the sun is beneficial to our health. The sun provides us with vitamin D, a hormone needed for growing and keeping strong bones and a healthy immune system. Without enough sun exposure we may be at risk for having low levels of vitamin D. Unfortunately, the ultraviolet (UV) rays – specifically UVB – responsible for producing vitamin D, is also the most important risk factor for skin cancer. Therefore, it is essential for us to balance the two by staying safe in the sun while maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D, which can be supplemented with foods naturally rich in vitamin D or vitamin D supplements.

Using sunscreen is necessary to prevent sunburn and other types of skin damage; however, with so many products on the market, how do you know you are choosing the right one? The first key element is choosing a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum. Broad-spectrum means that you will be protected against both the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. UVA rays go deep into the skin, weakening the immune system and speed up skin aging. UVB, on the other hand, is responsible for burning the skin. Additional tips for finding a good sunscreen include the following:

• High SPF labels does not mean it is better. SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and only refers to UVB protection. People often choose a sunscreen with a high SPF because they feel that they can stay out in the sun longer and will not need to reapply it as often. This false sense of security only increases the risk of other kinds of skin damage. It is recommended to avoid sunscreens with SPFs higher than 50 and reapply the sunscreen often.

• Avoid sunscreen protects containing vitamin A. Vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate or retinol, that has been applied to the skin has produced tumors and lesions sooner than sunscreens without it.

• Avoid oxybenzone. Oxybezone is a synthetic estrogen that enters the skin and can disrupt the hormone system or even trigger an allergic reaction. Instead, look for products containg zinc oxide, 3% avobezone, or Mexoryl SX, these ingredients will protect your skin from harmful UVA rays.

• Avoid insect repellent. Insect repellent should be a separate product from your sunscreen and applied first. Also, it is recommended that repellents are not applied to the face.

Being in the sun does not have to be feared; enjoy the sun and its benefits. Make sunscreen an important part of your outdoor gear. Follow the above tips above to ensure you have chosen a product with good sun protection and enjoy!

Links for further reading:

for infants:

This article was written by Regina Wunch
LECOM School of Pharmacy Class of 2014 PharmD Candidate
Student of Dr. Rebecca Wise

Be Well, Be Wise,


Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it:

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