There was a comic strip making the rounds in the Pacific Northwest recently.
“What’s the best sunblock you got?” one character in the strip asks. The answer: “Directions to Seattle.”
While it’s true that cloud cover is frequent here, that doesn’t mean that sunscreen isn’t important, experts say.
Up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches Earth on a completely cloudy day, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Plus, there’s hope that the sun will shine.
Sun damage, including frequent sunburns, is dangerous and preventable, experts say. Exposure to harmful rays can lead to serious health problems, including skin cancer.
Prevention starts with smart summer skin care.
Even people who stay indoors or seek the shade should still be thinking about using sun protection, experts recommend.
Many moisturizers and lotions include sunscreen, typically an SPF 15. These are good products to use daily, no matter the season.
Ronna Lane, an aesthetician and owner of Holistic Skin Care in Stanwood, said harmful rays can even penetrate car windows.
She recently went on a long road trip.
“I was really glad that I had some sunscreen on and had mineral makeup on that had some sunscreen in it,” Lane said.
Experts recommend using broad spectrum sunscreens — meaning the product blocks both UVA and UVB rays — with an SPF of 30 or higher.
ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports shopping guide, reviewed several sunscreen brands in the July 2012 issue. Top choices included Banana Boat Sport Performance SPF 30 and Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 as two of the best sprays available. Best lotions included All Terrain Aquasport SPF 30 and No-Ad with aloe and vitamin E SPF 45.
Some people avoid the sprays because they can be messy and unsafe around children. Sprays should never be applied directly to the face. Instead, spray the lotion onto hands, then apply to the face.
Consumer Reports didn’t find any benefit to using natural products over brands like Coppertone. Natural products tend to be more expensive.
The best sunscreen, according to many dermatologists, is one that people use.
Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure and reapplied frequently. Different products will last longer during exercise, swimming or other water activities.
As a general rule, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after getting out of the water.
When too much sun exposure leads to sunburn, use natural aloe vera to calm and heal the skin, Lane said.
Another trick is to take an oatmeal bath.
“That will help to soothe the skin,” Lane said.
What are sunscreens?
Sunscreens help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from reaching the skin. Two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
What Is SPF?
SPF — or Sun Protection Factor — is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin.
An SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer than no protection.
Here’s a different way to think about it: SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97 percent; and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. Still, all sunscreen should be reapplied regularly.
Who should use sunscreen?
Everyone should use a daily sunscreen. Even people who work inside are exposed to UV radiation. Children younger than 6 months should not be exposed to the sun. Shade and protective clothing are the best ways to protect infants.
What type of sunscreen should I use?
Broad-spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Experts recommend a SPF 30 or higher.
How much sunscreen should I use?
Apply 1 ounce, about a shot-glass full. Studies show that most people apply much less than required, diminishing the effectiveness.
Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation