Sunscreen 101 by Dr. Julia Tzu

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National Sunscreen Day should be a reminder on how to protect our body’s largest organ: The skin. However, many people still hold a few misconceptions about how and when to use sunscreen. Dr. Julia Tzu, a double board certified dermatologist and Medical Director/Founder of Wall Street Dermatology, offers the following easy-to-remember tips:

1. Daily use of sunscreen is crucial for the health and beauty of your skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation (UV-A, and UV-B) that induces skin cancer development and accelerates skin aging.

2. A commonly held misconception is that sunscreens should only be used during sunny days or during sunny outings. Sunscreens really should be used daily on all sun-exposed areas of the body. Because ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the naked eye, how “sunny” the day appears is not a reliable indicator of the incoming UV radiation exposure. Hence, UV radiation can be present in high levels even on an overcast, rainy day.

3. When choosing a sunscreen, look for a high SPF (sun protection factor). SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97% of the UVB, is typically recommended for everyday usage. A higher SPF may be recommended for outdoor activities. Always look for “broad spectrum” on the SPF label as an indicator of protection against UV-A and UV-B, both of which contribute to skin aging and skin cancer.

4. How much sunscreen should be applied on the body? Generally, a shotglass (approximately two tablespoons) amount of sunscreen is sufficient for the average person. Remember that sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes prior to sun exposure, then reapplied every two hours especially for outdoor activities.

5. For outdoor activities that involve water exposure, look for the “water resistant” label that indicates the duration, typically 40 or 80 minutes, of sun protection while exposed to water.

6. When applying sunscreen, ensure coverage to all sun exposed areas of the body. Areas of the skin that are frequently overlooked include top of ears, back of neck, and lips. An SPF lip balm is an ideal vehicle for application of sunscreen to your lips.

7. So will appropriate sunscreen application allow you to be safely exposed under the sun for longer periods of time? Remember that sunscreen only filters out a certain amount of sunlight and that increased duration of exposure may cancel out the beneficial effects of sunscreen usage. Prevention of skin cancers and sun-induced premature aging depends on a combination of proper sunscreen usage and prudent sun avoidance.

is a double board certified dermatologist and specializes in cosmetic
dermatology, Mohs surgery (for skin cancer), reconstructive skin
surgery, and laser surgery. Dr. Tzu is a member of the American Academy of
Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, the American
College of Mohs Surgery, and the Women’s Dermatologic Society.

Disclaimer level 0: The author received no compensation to write this article.


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