Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What You Should Look for in a Sunscreen

Pacific Dermatology sun damage sunscreen options Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What You Should Look for in a Sunscreen

Find the Best Sunscreen for Summer

Layering on sunscreen is a must when spending time outdoors. However, grabbing the first product you see on the drugstore shelf isn’t enough. A high quality sunscreen with broad spectrum protection will do the best job at preventing skin cancer and premature aging. This guide will help you find the right sunscreen to protect your skin.

How Sunscreen Works

Sunscreen acts as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays can damage your skin cells, causing issues like cancer and aging. There are two types of sunscreens that act as this barrier: chemical and physical.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays. The main ingredients in these sunscreens are often octisalate or avobenzone. Physical sunscreens function by blocking and scattering the rays. These sunscreens contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, so they’re often called mineral sunscreens.

Both chemical and physical sunscreens are safe to use, so talk to your dermatologist about which is best for you.

What to Look For on The Label

When shopping for sunscreen, there are a few characteristics to look for. These features indicate that the sunscreen is effective at preventing sun damage:

  • Broad Spectrum Protection: Sunscreens with the “broad spectrum” label protect against UVA and UVB rays. Since UVB rays play a bigger role in causing skin cancer, all sunscreens protect against this radiation. However, UVA rays can cause skin damage as well, particularly skin aging. You can keep your skin healthier overall by keeping both types away.
  • SPF 15 or Higher: Sunscreens with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 filter out about 93% of UVB radiation, and SPF 30 removes 97%. So, it’s important to choose a sunscreen that contains at least SPF 15. Talk to your dermatologist, as they may recommend a higher SPF if your skin is extra sensitive to the sun or you have a heightened risk of skin cancer.
  • Water Resistance: While no sunscreen is completely waterproof, water resistance will help keep the protection in place while you sweat. You should still apply your sunscreen about every two hours, but you will need to do so more often if you’re swimming or exercising outdoors.

Other Steps to Take

While sunscreen is an important part of skin cancer prevention, it’s not the only measure you can take. Wear protective clothing and stay in the shade whenever possible, especially during mid-day hours. You should also avoid artificial tanning, as indoor tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation as well.

As you take steps to protect your skin from the sun, be sure to see your dermatologist regularly. They can perform skin cancer screenings, discuss your personal skin cancer risk, and make recommendations for better sun protection. Your dermatologist can also offer skin care for sun damage, reducing the appearance of existing sun spots, wrinkles, and other issues related to sun exposure.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists is available to discuss sun protection and skin cancer prevention. Our skin cancer dermatology experts provide screenings, diagnostics, and treatment for our patients. We have offices in Montebello, CA and the surrounding area, so contact us today to book a screening at a location near you.

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