You know that stepping out sans sunscreen is a big no-no, but how do the rest of your SPF smarts stack up? UAB’s Marian Northington, MD, shares her top sun-safe skin tips, from her favorite SPF to how often you should reapply. Dr. Northington is a dermatologic surgeon and assistant professor of dermatology at UAB.
- Buy Broad Spectrum. When choosing a sunscreen for the warm months ahead, choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects the skin from both ultraviolet A rays and ultraviolet B rays. Ultraviolet B rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancers, and ultraviolet A rays are associated more with photoaging (wrinkles) and melanoma. I prefer zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens.
- Be Wary of Windows. UVA rays penetrate window glass, so it is important to wear SPF or cover up while in the car or sitting by sunny windows.
- Know the Danger Hours. As a general rule, sunscreen needs to be worn unless it’s dark enough that a flashlight is needed. The most intense rays occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but it is still necessary to wear at least SPF 30 anytime one is outside.
- Cloudy Doesn’t Mean All Clear. Clouds filter visible rays, but not ultraviolet rays, so it is important to wear SPF and practice sun avoidance behaviors even on cloudy days.
- Slather Often and Liberally. Sunscreen should be applied very liberally—at least a shot glass size (about one ounce) for the whole body—at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours and especially after swimming or excessive perspiration.
- Rely on Reinforcements. The best way to protect the skin is to avoid exposure to rays between 10 and 4, seek shade, and wear a hat and protective clothing. Remember, even under umbrellas on the beach, both sand and water reflect rays, and you will still get some UV exposure, although not as much.
- Get a Check-Up. Regular visits to your dermatologist are an essential part of keeping your skin as healthy as possible. To make an appointment with a dermatologist at UAB, call (205) 934-9999 or make an appointment online.