Sun Protection and Sunscreens (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is sun protection?
- What are the best ways to prevent a sunburn?
- What is sunscreen?
- What is meant by SPF?
- Are all sunscreens equally effective against UV radiation?
- How do sunscreens work, and which sunscreen ingredients protect against both types of UV radiation?
- How should skin sunscreens be applied?
- Do water or perspiration wash off sunscreen? How long does sunscreen last?
- Can sunscreens cause a skin reaction?
- Should everyone use sunscreen protection?
- Can the labels on sunscreen products be trusted in the U.S.?
- What's the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?
- Do all tanning products contain sunscreens?
- What kind of sunglasses offer protection against UV rays?
- Is sunscreen protection necessary in the winter?
- Are a good sunscreen and sunglasses enough?
- Do sunscreens expire?
- Sun Safety FAQs
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What's the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?
As described above, there is no such thing as a true "sunblock." This is a marketing term formerly used to label sunscreens with high SPF. Manufacturers can no longer identify their products as sunblocks because these claims are inaccurate exaggerations. No sunscreen can completely block the sun's rays.
Do all tanning products contain sunscreens?
No, some don't. Tanning products such as self-tanners that don't contain sunscreen are required by the FDA to carry a warning label alerting consumers to the dangers of unprotected sunbathing.
What kind of sunglasses offer protection against UV rays?
Only those that provide 100% protection against UVA and UVB radiation, as stated on the label at the time of purchase, should be worn for protection.
Is sunscreen protection necessary in the winter?
Yes, UV radiation, though not as intense in the winter, still poses a threat, especially when rays reflect off snow. Skiers should also note that the degree of exposure to the sun's radiation increases 4% for every 1,000-foot increase in altitude. There is no safe time of year when it comes to UV radiation. The same applies to weather conditions. Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds and reach the earth.
Are a good sunscreen and sunglasses enough?
No, they are only one part of a complete sun-protection program. An effective program also includes limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing.
Do sunscreens expire?
Yes, sunscreens can lose effectiveness over time. Many sunscreen products are labeled with an expiration date to signal the limit of the product's effectiveness and stability. Sunscreens are typically designed to be stable for three years. Storing a sunscreen in the heat, however, can cause the active ingredients to lose effectiveness faster than storing it in a cool place. Discard any sunscreen that is past the stamped expiration date, and if you purchase a sunscreen without such a date, write the month and year of purchase on the bottle.
American Melanoma Foundation. "Facts About Sunscreen." <http://www.melanomafoundation.org/prevention/facts.htm>.
Environmental Working Group. "EWG's 2015 Guide to Sunscreens." <http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/>.
Holman, Dawn M., et al. "Patterns of sunscreen use on the face and other exposed skin among US adults." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology May 19, 2015. <http://www.eblue.org/article/S0190-9622(15)01352-3/abstract>.
United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Sunscreen." Sept. 30, 2016. <http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/
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