How to choose your sunscreen according to a Dermatologist

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Not only is sunburn painful, it is also a clear sign that your skin has been damaged by too much ultraviolet radiation. Other undesirable consequences of excess sun exposure include premature ageing of the skin and, much more worryingly, skin cancer. People who have had sunburn are more than twice as likely to get melanoma than those who have not. The risk is even higher if you have had sunburn several times in your life. Seek shade or stay out of the sun if possible between 10 am and 2 pm. Be extra careful near water, snow and sand as they reflect UV rays which can increase your chances of sunburn. Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet and vitamin supplements - do not use this as an excuse to seek the sun! Wear sunscreen each and every day. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of UV radiation reaches your skin. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours. Finally, preventing skin cancer and sunburn outweigh any unproven claims of toxicity from ingredients in sunscreens. The following tips can help you choose a suitable product.

What You'll Need

  • Beach towel, hat and...sunscreen!!

What You'll Do

  • Broad spectrum protection. Check that the package labelling mentions both UVA and UVB.
  • SPF. SPF 30 gives 97% protection and SPF 50 gives 98% protection. The biggest issue....to get that level of protection, you have to apply sufficient quantities of the product e.g. a tablespoon for a 2-year old, two tablespoons for a 10-year old and four tablespoons for an adult. This can be harder to do with a spray, although if that's what you prefer, it's absolutely fine - just make sure you’re well coated.
  • If you swim, sweat or use a towel, you must reapply. Don't rely on the once per day promise. I would advise caution with any sun protection product that claims to only require once daily application.
  • The product must suit you. If it leaves yellow stains or thick white marks which put you off, you may not put apply enough of the sunscreen to get adequate protection. My suggestion would be to test a couple out and then stick with the one you like best.
  • Some adults and children are sensitive - or even allergic - to various chemicals in sunscreens but this DOES NOT mean that everybody will be. Again, testing different products will allow you to pick one that you like and will tolerate well.
  • For those who prefer to use a non-chemical sunscreen filter, there are a multitude of mineral sunscreens and physical protectants that contain zinc or titanium dioxide instead.
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