Dr. Kelly Jerstad is a board certified dermatologist in South Dakota. You may also know her as The Social Dermatologist, on the website The Social Derm. Be Well South Dakota is honored to have her as our featured guest blogger this week!
Fact: Sunscreen prevents skin cancer and wrinkling. The most preventable risk factor for developing skin cancer is sun exposure.
But what sunscreen should you choose?
A sunscreen labeled “Broad Spectrum.”
It is only recently that the FDA has begun regulating sunscreen labeling. Now, unlike in the past, when a sunscreen is labeled “Broad Spectrum” it actually is. This means it passes tests that show it significantly protects against both UVA (which can cause skin cancer but are the rays that mostly cause aging) and UVB (which cause the majority of skin cancer but also cause some photoaging). But the SPF number on sunscreen tells you only about the protection provided against UVB, not UVA. There is no number or rating that tells you how good a sunscreen is against UVA except the label “Broad Spectrum.”
A sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 25 to protect against UVB sunlight which causes skin cancer.
Some ask, “do I really need anything more than an SPF of 15?” Theoretically, reapplication of a shotglass size amount of sunscreen at least every two hours should be sufficient protection against sunburn in most situations. But, most people do not use enough sunscreen or reapply frequently enough. For this reason, I absolutely DO recommend using a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 25. It’s still important to reapply at least every two hours and use it liberally.
Look for specific ingredients to protect against UVA sunlight.
If you are worried about aging skin, you have to look for specific ingredients. Although some ingredients may be difficult to find, they include, but are not limited to, mexoryl, helioplex, Tinsorb, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for example.
“One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person’s risk for melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.” (http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sunburn/facts-about-sunburn-and-skin-cancer)
Children under 6 months of age should be kept in the shade. They cannot regulate their body temperature as effectively and get easily overheated so I recommend light weight clothing and shade. And because their skin barrier is not mature, they absorb more through their skin than older children. That’s why sunscreens are not recommended for babies, especially chemical sunscreens or microionized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide; just think shade!
All children should have a long-sleeved rash guard and swim shorts as well as a wide brimmed hat. Avoid direct sun between 10 and 4. Bikinis are cute, in the evenings J! But you can still get a sunburn in the evening so you still need sun protection in the evenings.
I recommend a sunscreen stick such as the Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block (not the Continuous Protection line) or Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby for sunscreen on the face. Kids don’t seem to mind sunscreen sticks as much as lotions and creams smeared all over their faces. These specific sunscreen sticks use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active sunscreen ingredients. I like this because physical sunscreen ingredients are not chemical sunscreens. I typically recommend avoiding chemical sunscreen in children younger than 2 years old. Although physical sunscreens (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) have a slight white tint to them, it allows you to see where you have missed. After you get the sunscreen applied thoroughly which you should be able to see, you can rub it in to decrease the white tint. The higher the concentration of the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the better the protection but the whiter the look. Microionized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide help minimize the white look to these physical sunscreens. Zany Zinc by Solar Sense is a colored facial 25% zinc oxide for faces and kids like it because it’s like facial paint! It’s great for the nose or cheeks under the eyes.
Creams and lotions are better for kids’ bodies because they are quicker to apply. Again, I recommend looking for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the active ingredients vs. the chemical sunscreens. Look for SPF of 30 or above. My favorite brands are Blue Lizard Australian Creamand Neutrogena Pure and Free. These can go on kind of white but that way you know where you are getting it and you can try to rub it in to take away a little of the white effect. But unless you go more with the chemical sunscreens, it is almost impossible to avoid the slight whitening of your child’s skin. But young kids don’t seem to mind the white look and I’ll take a little white glow over skin cancer and premature aging!
I know moms love the spray sunscreens because they are quick and easy but I really recommend they only be used in time crunch emergencies which we all have. The spray sunscreens are chemical sunscreens, again which I try to avoid in younger children. It’s also difficult to quantify how much you are actually using and where it is going so it’s easy to overestimate the protection you are actually getting. In fact, most people don’t use enough of the spray. The FDA does not regulate sunscreen sprays because of these difficult issues.
In any case, remember to reapply at least every two hours.
If you are a mom who is concerned with sunscreens because of all of the chemicals in the active and inactive ingredients and you prefer only natural ingredients, check out Badger sunscreen products.