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What you need to know about sunscreen

by Erika Maldonado | AirTalk®

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An Israeli woman rubs sunscreen on a Palestinian girl from the West Bank village of Jahalin as they spend the day at the beach on August 2, 2010 in Bat Yam, Israel. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

SPF 100 and additives like sea kelp and vitamin E are common to find on sunscreen labels. What most consumers don’t know is how ineffective and sometimes harmful it can be to skin.

“Broad spectrum” is the most important thing to look out for when stocking up on sunscreen this summer, but many aren’t familiar with what the term means. It was established by the FDA in 2011, referring to protection from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA exposure can cause skin aging while UVB rays cause sunburns, and both can lead to skin cancers. Most sunscreens only provide protection against sunburns, caused by UVB rays, although UVAs can be more harmful since it cuts through clouds and windows and can penetrate skin more deeply.

Dr. Janellen Smith at UC Irvine Health offers these tips to follow...

5 things you need to know about sunscreen: 

  1.  Protect your skin with more than just sunscreen. Avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and keep your skin covered. 
  2. Spray on sunscreens are used by most Americans, but there isn't enough evidence showing the risks of inhaling it. For use on your face, spray on your hands first and then apply. Don’t inhale it! 
  3. Natural ingredients aren’t always a good thing. The use of botanicals in sunscreens may cause an itch or rash. 
  4. Children under six months should avoid sunscreen. But if used, should use inorganic sunscreen with titanium or zinc oxide.
  5. Always reapply sunscreen after being in water. 

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen like this:

If that’s too overwhelming, just remember: a shot glass worth of SPF 30, broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen applied every 2 hours. Find out more from the American Academy of Dermatology HERE.


Dr. Janellen Smith, MD, Professor of dermatology, UC Irvine, co-director of the Pigmented Lesion Program at UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

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