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Summertime Tips – Sunscreen

Texas Summer means Texas Sun and Texas HOT.

When the temperatures go up, our kids will want to submerse themselves in a pool to cool down.  Here is a reminder to keep our summer fun and carefree:

Sunburns are simply no fun! In fact, sunburns are quite painful-Ouch!  Many of us have probably at one point in our lifetime forgotten to use sunscreen, and had our skin looking bright red or even blistering.

Although sunlight is essential for keeping healthy levels of vitamin D in our bodies, ultraviolet (UV) rays may be damaging if not appropriately monitored.  UVB represents 5% of UV rays that reach the earth’s surface and constitutes the most active wavelengths.  UVB is responsible for sunburn, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer. UVA makes up the remaining 95% of UV rays.  Although it is less damaging than UVB, UVA does contribute to photoaging.

Most of the sunscreens available over the counter are topical preparations that provide protection against both UVB and UVA.  SPF refers to sun protection factor, which measures the sunscreen’s ability to protect against a sunburn.  In general, SPF 15 is generally appropriate for daily use.  SPF 30 does offer twice as much protection as SPF15; but SPF 50 or greater only offers an increase of 1% more protection.

When the product has a label of “water/sweat resistance,” it is merely indicating that SPF is maintained for 40-80 minutes of activity in water/sweat.  It is very important to remember to re-apply sunscreen when participating in water activities, and a general rule of thumb for sunscreen might be “remember the sun’s power every hour.”

The AAP recommends avoiding sunscreen products for infants younger than 6 months.  However, when adequate clothing and shade are not available, a minimal amount of sunscreen with SPF 15 can be applied to the face and back of hands.

The total amount of sunscreen to use is also important for optimal protection, and studies have shown that roughly 1 oz of sunscreen should be applied.   The recommended amount is to follow the “teaspoon rule,” which refers to 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to each of the following body areas:  face/neck, torso, back, each arm, and each leg.  Don’t forget that a spray product should also be rubbed on the skin for a complete application.

Sunscreen should also be applied at least 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure, so that the product has time to form a protective film on the skin.  Remember to re-apply in about an hour, or sooner if in the water.

Lastly, photoprotective clothing is also available for added protection.  The degree of protection provided by clothing is defined by the UPF, ultraviolet protection factor, which measures a fabric’s ability to block out ultraviolet radiation.  The rating scale begins as low as 15 for good protection, and as high as 50 for excellent protection.

Our WPP motto for sunscreen: Remember the sun’s power every hour!

Article written by Dr. Elizabeth Leon

Dr. Elizabeth Leon established West Plano Pediatrics in 1995. She graduated from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and completed her residency at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. She is board certified in pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Leon has over 23 years of experience as a pediatrician in the community, and shares her knowledge through her blogs. Her blogs include topics such as financial awareness, memory making ideas, bike safety, and reasons not to start vaping.