Last updated: May 19. 2014 1:19PM - 430 Views
Alyssa Davis PharmD

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It’s almost summertime. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining bright. Exposure to the sun is a healthy thing, but it is important to know ways to protect yourself from harmful effects of the sun. May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, so in this article we will highlight the importance of sun protection.

The most effective way to protect your skin from the sun is by using sunscreen. Sunscreens have several ingredients that help block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the skin. There are two types of UV rays that damage the skin: UV-A and UV-B. UV-A rays are associated with skin aging caused by the sun. UV-B rays are responsible for sunburn.

Sunscreens have different sun protection factor (SPF) values, and it is important to understand what these values mean. The SPF measures how well the sunscreen will prevent UV-B rays from damaging the skin. The higher the SPF value, the more UV-B rays the sunscreen filters out. For example, SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UV-B rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%. When choosing a sunscreen product, it is important to look for a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays.

Sunscreen should be applied in generous amounts. Typically, about 2 tablespoons full of sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure. It is very important to reapply the same amount of sunscreen every two hours to get the best protection possible. Sunscreen should also be reapplied after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel.

Sunscreen is safe and recommended in everyone over six months of age. Children younger than six months should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time without protective clothing. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about sunscreen or protecting your skin from the sun.

(Editor’s note: Alyssa Davis is currently working at Clinton Drug in Clinton.

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