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Woman Applying Sunscreen, Following The Center For Surgical Dermatology’s Summer Sunscreen Tips And Safety Guidelines

Summer Sunscreen Tips: What is SPF, What Ingredients Work, and What Do We Recommend as Dermatologists?

The sweet summertime season is almost here! In no time at all, the warmer weather will be rolling in, the bright summer sun will be shining, and people will be enjoying the beautiful outdoors! 

Although, while the sun might feel good, it’s not doing your skin any favors! Unprotected skin is especially vulnerable to damage from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which are known to cause skin cancer and skin damage.

In today’s blog, our board-certified dermatologists are covering what you need to know about protecting your skin with sunscreen, including:

  • What SPF actually means
  • Ingredients you should look for in sunscreen 
  • Top sunscreen tips

Follow our summer sunscreen safety tips to keep your skin safe and protected this summer season, as well as during future summer seasons! 


Summer Sunscreen Safety Tips 

What is SPF? 

There’s a lot of confusion regarding SPF and what it is or how it protects your skin. Simply put, SPF means sun protection factor, and it’s how long your skin can be exposed to sun without getting burned. 

For example, if your skin is on the fairer side and burns after 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to be in the sun 15X longer without getting burned compared to not wearing sunscreen. 

As board-certified dermatologists, we recommend that our patients apply a high SPF sunscreen – between SPF 30 to SPF 50 – for optimal skin protection and skin cancer prevention


Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreen 

While browsing the shelves, you’ll see different sunscreen labels categorizing their sunscreens as “chemical” or “physical.” But what does that mean? While these two categories of sunscreen both protect the skin from damaging UV rays, they work a bit differently. 

Chemical sunscreens sink into the skin and protect it from UV damage by absorbing the rays and converting that energy to heat so that the UV rays can’t damage and burn the skin. On the other hand, physical sunscreens – also commonly referred to as mineral sunscreens – sit on top of the skin and create a barrier that actually reflects UV rays. 

Which is better? 

The right answer depends on your personal preference and skin sensitivity. Some of the ingredients found in chemical sunscreens may irritate sensitive skin, which is why many people prefer physical (mineral) sunscreens. 

Some physical sunscreens might leave a white cast on the skin, as they don’t always absorb as well as chemical sunscreens. These days, however, many physical sunscreen formulas have been improved to increase absorption, reduce white cast appearance, and boost skin protective performance. 


What Ingredients Should You Look for in Sunscreen? 

There are a few ingredients in sunscreen that you should keep an eye out for to help you choose the best one for your skin. These ingredients include: 

  • Oxybenzone – AVOID. This common ingredient found in many low-quality, less expensive sunscreens has been shown to penetrate the skin and mimic estrogen, which disrupts hormone production. Additionally, oxybenzone contributes to the bleaching of coral reefs, making it unsafe for our oceans. 
  • Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) – AVOID. This ingredient may cause allergic dermatitis and photosensitivity. It’s also been banned in both Australia and Canada. 
  • Avobenzone APPROVE. Avobenzone is an effective chemical sunscreen with broad-spectrum, UVA and UVB, protection. This is a good option for all skin tones and skin types. Chemical sunscreens and their absorption into the bloodstream are still being examined by the FDA. 
  • Zinc Oxide – APPROVE. Zinc oxide is a well-known ingredient in physical sunscreens that is safe, ocean-safe, and provides broad-spectrum sun protection. Just make sure to look out for sunscreens that specify non-nano zinc oxide! 


Our Top Sunscreen Safety Tips 

As professional dermatologists, we have a few sunscreen safety tips to share with you for optimal summertime skin protection. 

  1. Always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This simply means the sunscreen is formulated to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, rather than just one or the other. Products that pass the FDA’s broad spectrum requirements can be legally labeled “broad spectrum.”
  2. Reapply often and abundantly. One coat of sunscreen doesn’t last all day. It often wears off due to swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. So make sure to put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours! One ounce (a full shot glass) is the recommended amount to cover the entire body of most adults.
  3. Check the expiration date. Sunscreen doesn’t last forever, and in many cases, the effectiveness wears off after just a couple of years. So keep your sunscreen updated by purchasing a new bottle every couple of years or so. 
  4. Limit your time during peak sun hours. Sun rays are strongest between 10 AM and 2 PM. If you’re susceptible to burns, try to avoid sun exposure during these peak hours. 

If you’ve been overly exposed one too many times to the sun and have experienced several sunburns, we recommend reading our skin cancer guide and scheduling a skin cancer screening! 


Optimal Skin Protection with a Quality Sunscreen 

Are you struggling to find a sunscreen or sunblock you love? The best sunscreen/sunblock for you is any kind that you can commit to using every day. So whether you’re inside the house or outside soaking up the sun rays, you should be using sunscreen to protect your skin year-round. 

If you would like more guidance on selecting the optimal sunscreen for you, get in touch! We love giving product recommendations. While we’re at it, we can even schedule your yearly skin cancer screening, which is an essential part of preventative care! 


Center for Surgical Dermatology is Central Ohio’s leader in skin cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. If you’d like assistance creating a sun protection plan, call (614) 847-4100 to schedule an appointment with us today. 

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