Wise Words – Soaking Up the Sun…Without Getting Burnt

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

Soaking Up the Sun…Without Getting Burnt

As the warm weather quickly approaches, everybody enjoys being able to go outside and participate in sports, have a cookout, or just lay around and get a bit of color. However, sometimes we get caught outside for longer than expected and accidently get sun burnt. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this.

Before we look at prevention, let’s take a look at how people get a burn from the sun. Sunburn is due to direct contact between the skin and ultraviolet rays produced by the sun. These ultraviolet rays, better known as UVA and UVB, get absorbed by the skin cells. Not only will this cause sunburn, but can also increase the risk of skin cancer and cause skin aging, in the form of wrinkles and “age spots”. Another cause to becoming sun burnt is due to your medicine. Several medications out there cause Photosensitivity Reactions, which essentially means these medications cause your skin to become more reactive to UV rays which in turn cause you to have an allergic-like reaction. To find out about whether or not you are taking a medication that puts you at this increased risk, ask your physician or pharmacist.

sunburn-WEBTo prevent these problems all you have to do is avoid the sun. However, that is not always plausible or enjoyable, but luckily sunscreens are made to help prevent our skin from absorbed too much ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). The tougher challenge is deciding which sunscreen is actually the best one for you. When trying to decide which sunscreen to choose there are a handful of items to look at: SPF, Broad Spectrum and Water Resistance. In order to choose the proper sunscreen, it is critical to know what each item means and why they help determine which the best choice is for you.

Let’s start with SPF, otherwise known as sun protection factor, is the most common way sunscreens display how well the sunscreen will protect you against the sun, with the higher the SPF being more protective. For a sunscreen to be beneficial, it should be at least SPF 15, but once you get above SPF 50 you do not gain significant benefits. One of the other items to look at is whether or not the sunscreen is considered “broad spectrum.” If it is labeled as broad spectrum that means it protects you against both UVA and UVB. This is important because almost every sunscreen protects you against UVB, but UVA is also important to avoid excessive absorption as it is the bigger factor in causing skin cancer and early skin aging. These two items are extremely important in making sure that when you use sunscreen, you are getting the protection you desire.

The last piece of information you want to look for is whether it is “water resistant.” If it does state that it is water resistant on the label, then it should be accompanied with a time frame of how long it lasts, usually 40 or 80 minutes. The time frame tells you how long the sunscreen will protect you when you’re in the water or sweating. If it doesn’t make the claim for water resistance, then sunscreen should be reapplied immediately after getting out of the water. Sunscreen should also be reapplied when you towel dry, or sweat excessively, and at least every two hours.

As you can see, there are many different components that help determine which sunscreen is best for you and what to actually expect from the sunscreen. Hopefully the next time you decide which sunscreen to use and how to apply it, you’ll be able to make the proper decision to best protect you from getting sunburn or worse, skin cancer.

Written by: Dalton Fishel, Pharm D Candidate, LECOM School of Pharmacy Class of 2017

Be Well, Be Wise,
Dr.Becky


Be Well, Be Wise,
Dr.Becky

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Dr Rebecca Wise
Dr Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Rebecca Miller Wise, MEd, PharmD, CGP. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is a nationally board certified geriatric pharmacist and an assistant professor at a local medical college.

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