Don’t forget the sunscreen!

As the days shorten in the Northeast, it is tempting to think that summer is over.  However the Sun and its rays are still very strong. It is important to protect ourselves and our babies from damage caused by the sun.  Choosing the correct sunscreen can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun. We thought it would be a good time to share some tips from the American Cancer Society and The American Academy of Dermatology.

HOW TO SELECT A SUNSCREEN: 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consumers choose a sunscreen that states on the label:

  1. Broad Spectrum which  means the sunscreen protects the skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can cause cancer.
  2. SPF 30 or higher, which indicates that the product has significant protection from sun exposure
  3. Water Resistant, which should provider up to 40 minutes of moisture resistance.  Sunscreens are not waterproof or sweatproof and need to be reapplied.

When Should I Use Sunscreen?  Every day if you will be outside.  Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.

Is a High- Number SPF better than a Low-Number one?  Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.  High-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs and all sunscreens should be applied approximately every two hours or according to time on the label.

How Can I Protect My Baby or Toddler From the Sun?  Ideally, parents should avoid exposing babies younger than 6 months to the sun’s rays.  The best way to protect infants from the sun is to keep them in the shade as much as possible, in addition to dressing them in long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.  Make sure your baby gets plenty of fluids. Sunscreen should be avoided if possible in babies younger than 6 months.  Parents of infants and toddlers 6 months and older may apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  Sunscreens that use the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium oxide, or special sunscreens made for infants or toddlers may cause less irritation to their sensitive skin.

Besides sunscreen, how else may I protect my skin?   Seek shade.  The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 2 pm.  Wear protective clothing. Avoid tanning beds!  Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.  If you want to look tan, you may wish to use a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

How Do I Treat a Sunburn?  Treat a sunburn as soon as possible.  Soak in a cool bath to reduce the heat. Use moisturizer as soon as you get out of the bathtub.  Hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription can help ease discomfort.   Drink extra water.  Do not treat sunburn with “-caine” products such as benzocaine.  If your skin blisters, you have a second-degree sunburn.  Allow the blisters to heal untouched.  If the blisters cover a large area or if you have chills, a headache or a fever, seek immediate medical care.

It is a great time of year to be outside but please stay safe!