Dermatologists know that the No. 1 product to prevent wrinkles and sun damage is sunscreen. Used daily on the face and body, sunscreen can ward off skin cancer and premature aging. The Academy recommends the following tips for sunscreen selection and use:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 15 or higher - In a 2002 survey conducted by the AAD, 90 percent of the survey respondents always or sometimes wear sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun.
- The sun Protection Factor (SPF) system currently used to rate the strength of sunscreens measures their ability to provide primarily UVB protection, which helps prevent sunburn, and does not measure the amount of protection it provides from UVA rays. Studies show that UVA rays can cause immunosuppression (or the weakening of the body's ability to protect itself from cancer and other diseases).
- Use sunscreen every day if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, even on cloudy days. More than 80 percent of the sun's harmful rays are filtered through clouds.
- Look for sunscreens with ingredients that provide broad-spectrum protection, including: benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl, cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone (Parsol 1789).
- Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
- When applying sunscreen, pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands, and arms, and generously coat the skin that is not covered by clothing.
- One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount of sunscreen needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly.
- Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily. Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so after drying with a towel, reapply sunscreen for continued protection.
Unless indicated by an expiration date, the FDA requires that all sunscreens be stable and at their original strength for at least three years. However, if you are using the correct amount, a bottle of sunscreen should not last you very long.