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Be smart about sunscreen

Dr. Ashley Emerson

With summer in full swing, it is important to incorporate good sun safety practices into your daily routine so you and your family can enjoy warm-weather outdoor activities without concern. The foundation of sun protection begins with sunscreen; here are some important points to consider when choosing the right type.


For optimal protection, a sunscreen should provide broad-spectrum coverage, have an SPF of 30 or higher and be water resistant, all of which should be clearly marked on the label. Bottom line: If you don’t see it on your product, chances are it doesn’t meet these standards.


If you have experienced irritation or sensitivity to sunscreen in the past, consider switching to a “sensitive skin” version or to a “physical” sunscreen that uses zinc or titanium as the primary ingredient. New formulations go on clear, just like traditional “chemical” agents. Bottom line: Everyone can use some type of sunscreen.


The biggest mistake most people make is incorrect use of sunscreen. Sunscreen takes time to take effect, so it should be applied approximately 30 minutes before going outdoors. It takes approximately one ounce (about a shot-glass amount) to adequately cover the average adult. Sunscreen also wears off, so it should be reapplied at least every two hours, or sooner after swimming or sweating. Bottom line: If you’re applying sunscreen and still getting a tan (or, even worse, a sunburn), you aren’t doing it right.

We know one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime, and the damaging UV rays from the sun are by far the biggest risk factor. Since sun exposure causes cumulative damage over time, the younger this damaging process begins, the higher your risk.

Bottom line: You can decrease your risk of skin cancer by implementing proper sunscreen practices into your daily routine now.

Dr. Ashley Emerson is a board-certified dermatologist with The Dermatology Clinic PLLC. Reach her at (228) 864-3300.