Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sunscreen and Sun Protection Primer

Sunscreen and sun protection are a must, especially in summer in Central Texas.  But you may be confused by all the jargon on the bottles in the sunscreen aisle.  Statesman.com helps decode the buzz words.

First of all, sunscreen is not only necessary in the summer.  You can get a sunburn any time of year and should wear sunscreen any time you go outdoors.  Even if there's cloud cover, eighty percent of UV rays still penetrate the clouds and you can still get a sunburn.  Although, sunlight is necessary for the body to make Vitamin D, you can get the necessary amount from less than 10 minutes of indirect exposure a day.  Also, Vitamin D is in a lot of fortified foods or you can take vitamins.  So you should still protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun.

The sun can cause skin cancer, and just one sunburn that's bad enough to cause blisters as a child or teen more than doubles a person's chances of getting melanoma when they get older.  Even people with darker skin or skin that tans need to wear sunscreen.  As Dr. Hill, a pediatric dermatologist, explains it, a tan is the skin crying for help, but once the skin is burned it can't cry anymore because the skin cells have died.

If your child gets a bad sunburn, you can put soothing lotion like Aquaphor or petroleum jelly on the burn.  But if your child has blisters, a sign of a second degree burn, you need to treat it more carefully.  Never pop the blister and give your child a cool bath or apply cool compresses to soothe the pain.  You can also give your child Advil and if the blister pops or the skin beneath it appears wet, take your child to the doctor to make sure there isn't an infection.

SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates how long sunscreen adds to your skin's natural protection and what percentage of UV rays it blocks.  The experts interviewed for this story recommend a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30.  You also want to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Also, if you'll be in the water or sweating, make sure to choose a water resistant formulation.

Finally, you need to know when, how often and how much sunscreen to apply.  Put on sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every hour to two hours.  If you are swimming, reapply every time you dry off.  An average size adult wearing a swim suit should use 1 ounce or a full shot glass of sunscreen each time.

Looking for an Austin Apartment where you can take refuge from the sun?  Apartment Specialists can help you find a cool new place!