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How to Enjoy the Hot Texas Sun Without Damaging Your Skin

Jul 08, 2015 03:58PM ● Published by Michael Thornton

Summer is all about spending time outdoors and taking family vacations to beach paradises.  But it’s also about wearing sunscreen to protect against the effects of harmful UV radiation and sunburn.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) there are several important factors in choosing the right sunscreen.  Here is a rundown of a few frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) and answers, courtesy of Mansfield Cosmetic Surgery Center.

What sunscreen should I use?

It is recommended that everyone use a broad-spectrum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or greater that protects against both UVA and UVB (sun ultraviolet rays A and B).  Also make sure it is water resistant.  Generic brands from a reputable pharmacy or grocery store are just as effective as name brands – only less expensive.

It is furthermore recommended to apply an even amount to all sun exposed areas including the top of scalp and ears.  Wait approximately 15 minutes for the sunscreen to dry before exposing yourself to water.  Reapply every 2 hours or as indicated on the label – even on cloudy days, after swimming, and after sweating.

Creams are best for dry skin and the face.  Gels are good for hairy areas such as the scalp and male chest.  Sprays are mostly preferred by parents since they are easy to apply to children.

When should I use sunscreen?

It is advised to apply every day in the morning if you will be outside. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays year round - even on cloudy days.  Snow, sand, and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.  Don’t forget about applying SPF 30 or greater to your lips with lip balm.

What type of sun protection should I follow for my baby?

Ideally, babies under 6 months should avoid spending time exposed to the sun’s rays.  The best sun protection for babies is to keep them in the shade as much as possible in addition to covering all exposed skin, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and wearing sunglasses.  If your baby has redness on any exposed skin they should be moved indoors.

Can I use the sunscreen I bought last summer, or do I need to purchase a new bottle each year? Does it lose its strength?

Don’t worry about using last year’s bottle, as the FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years.  Some sunscreens include an expiration date. However, if the expiration date has passed, throw out the sunscreen.  You also can look for visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good.  Any obvious changes in the color or consistency of the product mean it’s time to purchase a new bottle.   

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays - ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  UVA rays prematurely age your skin, cause wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.  UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn.  The best way to remember is UV-“A” = “Age” and UV-“B” = “Burn”.

What other recommendations should I consider to protect against the sun?

Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.   Seek shade when appropriate.  Remember the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Information provided by Dr. Michael L. Thornton.

About the Author

Dr. Michael L. Thornton is a fellowship-trained, dual board certified Cosmetic Surgeon and Diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and was specifically trained in body contouring surgery during his 12-month advanced cosmetic surgery fellowship. Dr. Thornton attends yearly national cosmetic surgery meetings and participates in advanced courses to offer you the latest techniques in post-bariatric and after massive weight loss surgery. Visit him online here.


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