Aspire to be Healthy: A family guide to sunscreens
By Lori Vandevoort, FNP
Aspirus Three Lakes clinic
Does your idea of family fun include spending time together outdoors? Then it’s important to protect the whole gang from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.
There’s nothing cool about painful sunburns, early wrinkles or a raised risk of skin cancer. And yet that’s just what too much UV exposure can bring. One way to help keep your family safe is to make sure everyone gets their sunscreen on.
Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Check the label. When shopping for sunscreen, make sure you choose one that:
• Offers broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays.
• Has a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30. This dermatologist-recommended level of protection blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays.
• Is water-resistant.
Apply sunscreen before you go outside. It takes about 15 minutes for its protection to kick in.
Use enough of the stuff. Many people make the mistake of using too little sunscreen. Experts recommend using at least one ounce—about the amount you can hold in the palm of your hand—to cover exposed skin. This includes the face, ears, arms, hands, nose, neck and feet. Use a lip balm with sunscreen in it to protect your lips.
Reapply at least every two hours. But put more sunscreen on immediately after you swim or sweat excessively.
Lather up the kids, too. Follow the label instructions when applying sunscreen to children’s exposed skin. If you have a baby younger than six months, it’s best to keep him or her in the shade to protect that sensitive skin.
You’ll also want to help your family avoid getting too much sun. For instance, encourage everyone to seek a shady spot whenever possible. And before you head outside, hand out some wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Sources: American Academy of Dermatology; U.S. Food and Drug Administration.