Philippine Dermatological Society

SUN PROTECTION

Pia Victoria Velasco MD, FPDS

Healthy skin entails adequate sun protection. Without sun protection, it increases our risk for sunburn, skin aging and even skin cancer.
Here are some practical tips on how to protect your skin from the sun: Seek shade when appropriate. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 am and 2 pm.

Another way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays is by wearing protective clothing. Dermatologists recommend wearing the following:

  • Lightweight and long-sleeved shirt and pants

Proper choice of clothing can provide some sun protection. When selecting what to wear, avoid fabrics with a loose or open weave such as lace. Likewise, dark colors offer more protection than light colors.

  • Wide-brimmed hat

A wide brimmed hat is a simple way to provide additional protection for the face and neck. Avoid caps and straw hats with a loose weave.

  • Sunglasses with UV protection

When choosing sunglasses, read the label to determine if the lens will provide adequate sun protection. In addition, large-framed sunglasses would offer more protection as compared to smaller frames.

  • Shoes that cover your feet

If you opt to wear sandals or flip-flops or go barefoot outdoors, be sure to apply adequate amounts of sunscreen on all exposed areas.

  • Select clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) label.

The number indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the fabric. For example, a jacket labeled with UPF 50 allows only 1/50th of the UV radiation to reach your skin.

Water-Resistant. Dermatologists also recommend you look for the words “water resistant”. This tells you that the sunscreen is capable of staying on wet or sweaty skin for a longer while before you need to reapply. “Water resistant” tends to last for up to 40 minutes and “Very Water-Resistant” tends to stay for up to 80 minutes. For any case, sunscreens are not 100% waterproof and sweatproof and will still need to be reapplied.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you apply the sunscreen properly as compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. So if you use an SPF 30 product properly, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you used no sunscreen. Simultaneously, SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of UVB rays. Higher numbered SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UVB rays.

The US Food and Drug Administration has also concluded that the maximum SPF value on sunscreen should be “50+” as there is insufficient evidence to conclude a true difference in protection between products that are SPF 50, 75 and 100.

  • Use a sunscreen whenever going outdoors, even on a cloudy day as 80% of the sun’s UV radiation can still reach the Earth.
  • Apply sunscreen onto dry skin 15 minutes prior to stepping outdoors.
  • Apply sufficient sunscreen that will cover most especially the exposed areas of the body. To apply enough sunscreen on an adult, one would apply roughly 1 ounce, or approximately 1 shot glass to fully cover one’s body.
  • Do not forget to apply on the top of the head, ears, neck and feet. These areas tend to be overlooked.
  • To protect your lips, apply a lipbalm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher.
  • Re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors, and after swimming and sweating.
  • Lightweight and long-sleeved shirt and pants.
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Issues about Vitamin D

Will using sunscreen decrease your skin’s production of Vitamin D? According to a Position Statement on Vitamin D by the American Academy of Dermatology, the AAD recommends that an adequate amount of Vitamin D should be obtained from a healthy diet that includes food rich in Vitamin D, foods/beverages fortified with Vitamin D and/or Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to UV radiation.

In this way, you can meet the required vitamin D you need without increasing your risk for skin cancer. If you are concerned about not getting enough Vitamin D, discuss your options with a board-certified dermatologist.

References:

American Academy of Dermatology
The Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org)
AAD Position Statement on Vitamin D (2008, 2010)