Lynn E. Allison, M.D.



Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

What are the General Recommendations?

It is best to protect your skin all year around by applying a good sunscreen daily, rain or shine, with at least an SPF 15 and that has good UVA protection, such as from zinc oxide (see below "How do I choose a Good Sunscreen"). Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all sun-exposed areas at least 20 minutes before going into the sun for good absorption and then reapplied every 2 - 4 hours. Also note that UV exposure is greater around water, snow and sand, increasing the need for sunscreen.

What about Children and Infants?

Infants less than 6 months should be kept out of direct sun. Children should use a physical sunscreen (see definition below) instead of chemically absorbed sunscreens. It has been shown that people that had bad sunburns as a child are at a greater risk for skin cancer.

What do Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays do to my Skin?

Studies show that Ultraviolet-A rays are responsible for up to 90% of visible skin changes contributing to premature skin aging including wrinkles. Wrinkles, for example, occur from the UVA and UVB radiation breaking down collagen, creating free radicals, and inhibiting the natural repair mechanisms of the skin. While UVB radiation is more seasonal and responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation penetrates deeper and is more constant throughout the day and the year. UVA rays go through windows, light clothing, and hats.

What is the difference between Physical and Chemical sunscreens?

A chemical block has the ability to be absorbed by the skin and sunlight is stopped upon contact. A physical block sits on the skin's surface and does not have the ability to be absorbed into the skin. Sunlight is either absorbed into the sunscreen or reflected away from the body.

What are Signs of Skin Aging and What can I do?

Some signs of sun damage or skin aging include areas of your skin that have redness, brown spots or tiny veins. Dr. Allison recommends daily use of a good sunscreen and antioxidant for ongoing protection and maintenance.

How do I choose a Good Sunscreen?

While SPF (sun protection factor) measures the amount of UVB absorption (use at least SPF 15), UVA absorption is only known by looking at the ingredients. Zinc oxide, avobenzone, and titanium dioxide are 3 of the best for UVA protection. At Branson Clinic Skin Spa, zinc oxide is the ingredient used in our sunscreens. Check your sunscreen for one of the following ingredients to protect against UVA sunlight: zinc oxide (P), titanium dioxide (P), avobenzone, ecamsule, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, dioxybenzone, or menthyl anthranilate. For children, the only two recommended active ingredients are noted above with a (P-physical).

What is the UV Index ?

The UV Index is a forecast of the probable intensity of skin damaging ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface during the solar noon hour (11:30-12:30 local standard time or 12:30-13:30 local daylight time). The greater the UV Index is the greater the amount of skin damaging UV radiation (the higher the UV Index, the smaller the time it takes before skin damage occurs). See our homepage for the current index (source found here from the CPC).

UV INDEX Parameters: Low 0-2 - Apply skin protection factor (SPF) 15 sunscreen & wear sunglasses on bright days (snow and water can nearly double UV); Moderate 3-5 - apply SPF 15, take precautions like covering up if you are outside and stay in the shade during midday when the sun is the strongest; High 6-7 - apply SPF 15, wear protective clothing and sun glasses, reduce time in the sun between 10am and 4pm; Very High 8-10 - apply SPF 15, wear protective clothing (wide-brim hat) and sun glasses and make attempts to avoid the sun between 10am to 4pm; Extreme 11+ - apply SPF 15 every 2 hours, wear protective clothing and sun glasses and avoid being in the sun between 10am to 4pm - unprotected skin can burn in minutes. Note that water, sand, and other reflective surfaces reflect UV and will increase UV exposure.

Where can I read More about these subjects?

Read "Sunscreen - The Burning Facts", from the Environmental Protection Agency, Other website(s): EPA SunWise Program, About.com