Fitness Facts: Sunscreen basics

Connie Colbert

By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

Everyone needs sunscreen. Sunscreen can help prevent cancer by protecting you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop some sort of skin cancer in their lifetime. Here's a Q&A about it:

When should I use sunscreen?

Every day if you will be outside. The sun emits rays year round. Even cloudy days are harmful. Also, remember that snow, sand and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.

How much sunscreen should I use, and how often should I reapply it?

Use enough to coat all exposed skin. Don’t forget your ears, neck, face, hands and arms.

Apply to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.

Skin cancer also can form on the lips. Apply lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating, following to the directions on the bottle.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again. The most important factor is that it offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water resistant.

A few guidelines:

  • Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
  • Gels are good for hairy areas, such as scalp or male chest.
  • Sticks are good to use around the eyes.
  • Sprays are often preferred by parents since they are easy to apply.
  • There also are more specialized products for sensitive skin and for babies.
  • Regardless of what product you choose, be sure to apply generously for the UV protection indicated on the label.

Will using sunscreen limit the amount of Vitamin D I get?

Sunscreen may decease your skin’s production of Vitamin D. If you are concerned about not getting enough Vitamin D, you should discuss your options for getting Vitamin D from other sources

What if I get a sunburn?

It is important to treat sunburn as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your skin.

Dermatologists suggest:

  • Cool baths to reduce heat
  • Moisturizer to help the discomfort caused by dryness. Apply after you get out of the shower and/or bath. Gently pat your skin dry but leave a little moisture. Apply moisturizer to keep the water in your skin.
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help the pain and discomfort
  • Drink extra water. Sunburn pulls fluid to the skin and away from the rest of the body. Drinking water can prevent dehydration.
  • Do NOT treat burns with “caine,” such as benzocaine.

If your skin blisters:

Allow the blisters to heal without popping them.

If the blisters cover a large area or you have chills, headache or a fever, seek medical care as soon as possible.

And avoid further sun exposure until your skin heals.

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