Sunscreen is an important part of skin cancer prevention, but it’s important to realize that no sunscreen can offer 100 percent protection from harmful ultraviolet, or UV, rays. Dr. Alvarado, can you give us some tips on proper sunscreen use?
I sure can, Dr. Mayzik. Sunscreen comes in a variety of forms, such as lotions, creams, ointments, gels, sprays, wipes, lip balms, and some cosmetics. When you choose a sunscreen in any form, it’s important to pay attention to two things: what kind of rays it protects against, and its sun protection factor, or SPF, value. Sunscreens labelled as “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Experts recommend using sunscreen with SPF values of 30 or higher. Be aware that a higher SPF number means more UVB protection, but not necessarily more UVA protection.
Applying sunscreen properly is just as important as using it in the first place. Many people don’t get the protection they need because they don’t use enough sunscreen, or they forget to reapply. Generally, about one ounce of sunscreen, or one palmful, should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face of the average adult. It should be reapplied every two hours, or more often if it gets wiped off after swimming or sweating.