MINNEAPOLIS — As the weather warms and summer gets closer, we all want to spend more time outdoors. But being outside with unprotected skin can lead to painful sunburns, and even skin cancer.
So what's your best option for a quality sunscreen?
University of Minnesota Health Pediatric Dermatologist Ingrid Polcari, MD, FAAD, recommends checking the label before you buy any sunscreen. She said the best buy for your money is an SPF of 30 or higher that offers "broad spectrum" coverage. This means your sunscreen offers protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, that can cause wrinkles and sunspots, and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that can cause sunburns.
Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to the development of skin cancer.
In an article from M Heath Fairview, Polcari recommends buying a lotion sunscreen over a spray. Sprays can be effective, but with a lotion you can make sure an even coating has been applied to your skin.
Spray sunscreens can be swept away in a breeze, and also have the potential to irritate the eyes and lungs. Polcari does not recommend parents use a spray when helping their children apply sunscreen, and emphasizes that the sunscreen should not be directly sprayed into anyone's face.
Sprays also have the potential to be flammable, so be extra careful around grills, bonfires and other open flames.
For sensitive skin, choose a product with zinc or titanium as the active ingredient.
Put on that first coating of sunscreen 30 minutes before you head outdoors, and make sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you're swimming or sweating. Pay special attention to your head, back and lower legs, as these areas usually get the most sun exposure. A water-resistant sunscreen is recommended by Polcari if you're in or around the water.
The peak times for UV exposure are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so avoid being outside during that time if possible. Checking the UV index before you head outside can also give you some valuable insight to your sunburn risks for the day.
“Most people need to take precautions in the sun if the UV index is 3 or higher,” Polcari said.
If you do get a sunburn, a fragrance-free moisturizer and some ibuprofen can help to ease the discomfort. If those aren't enough, a cool bath and wet compresses might do the trick.