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What You Need to Know for Sun Protection

Summer is here and that means sunburn. I grew up in Arizona where getting a tan was a state sport. The darker the better and we would bake in the sun wearing nothing but vegetable oil. Yikes. The flower children are now paying the price with wrinkles, keratosis and skin cancers. I wish someone would have told me what I'm telling you now that we know about the importance of sun protection.

  • There is no such thing as a good "base tan". Any tanning means the skin has had too much UV rays. And UV rays are the main cause of premature skin aging, skin cancer, wrinkles and brown spots (solar keratosis).

  • What about Vitamin D? We do need sun UBV rays to convert pre-vitamin D into Vitamin D3 but 10-15 minutes of sun a few times a week is all we need for this healthy conversion. Unless a person is a complete shut in, that much sun can be absorbed from just walking around a bit.

  • What about mineral vs chemical sunscreen? Both work to block the harmful rays. Mineral sunscreen sits on the skin and contains zinc oxide and /or titanium dioxide, which are not absorbed. Chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which absorb the rays instead of your skin. The safety of absorbed oxybenzone has been questioned as an endocrine disruptor and other ingredients in chemical sunscreen can be absorbed also. Hawaii has banned chemical sunscreens as harming reefs. Most dermatologist say it's a matter of preference.

Most people are not using enough sunscreen. It needs to be slathered on thickly and reapplied every 2 hours or more after swimming.

  • Does dark skin need sunscreen? Yes! Even though natural melanin provides some sun protection it is far less than a sunscreen. People of color need sunscreen just as much as pale folks.

  • What is SPF? Sun Protection Factor is the number on sunscreen that tells you how much protection it provides. SPF of 30 means it would take 30 times more sun to cause sunburn. The American Cancer Society and American Academy of Dermatology recommend SPF of at least 30.

  • What about spray tans? Are they safe? Spray tans are safer than suntans and tanning beds. Remember that sunless tanners don't contain sunscreen and they should never be inhaled.

This is my happy place with a big hat and lots of shade and sunscreen applied frequently.


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