Playing It Safe in the Sun

By Diana Lomont, Editorial Contributor

Before Sunscreen

Relying on sunscreen alone is not enough. “Sunscreen use reduces, but does not eliminate the risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Todd Sontag, a family medicine physician with Orlando Health Physician Associates. He also advises to: 

  • Avoid the sun at its strongest —between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, including brands that provide a sun protection factor (SPF) of up to 50. A broad-brimmed hat can help shade your face, ears and back of the neck.
  • Set up an umbrella or canopy for shade at the pool or beach.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing large-framed, wrap-around sunglasses with 99 percent protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Use Sunscreen Correctly

Choose a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of 30 to 50.

[SPFs above 50 add negligible protection.]

  • Chemical sunscreens, with ingredients such as oxybenzone or avobenzone, should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently after swimming or heavy perspiration.

Sun Safety for Babies and Kids

Severe sunburns before the age of 18 can cause melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as an adult. “Even one bad sunburn can double a child’s chance of getting melanoma later in life,” explains Dr. Sontag.

  • For babies under 6 months of age, avoid direct sunlight. Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats. Sunscreen in small amounts is okay if there is no way to avoid the sun.
  • Mineral sun blockers that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are preferred for young children’s sensitive skin.

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