Sunscreen 101 - Health Fair 11 Tip sheet

3:10 PM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS --- When the weather finally turns nice and sunny, it's time to enjoy the great outdoors. Before you start your fun in the sun, remember to protect yourself with sunscreen.

Sunburn happens when you have too much exposure to the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays. These invisible rays can cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, and wrinkling. UV ray damage starts happening after just 15 minutes of exposure to the sun's rays. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can cause skin damage.

Who is at risk?

All people, regardless of skin color, are susceptible to UV ray damage. People who are most likely to get skin cancer from UV rays have:

  • Lighter natural skin color
  • Skin that burns easily
  • Skin that freckles 
  • Blond or red hair 
  • Blue or green eyes

Tips on selecting a sunscreen

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises using sunscreen products to prevent sunburn. Sunscreen comes in many forms including lotions, creams, gels, and sprays. The CDC says choose a sunscreen that protects you from UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. UVA rays go deeper into the skin and cause wrinkles, speed up the aging process, and are also more likely to cause skin cancer.

It is important to choose a product that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. The CDC says choosing a product with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 will provide good protection against UVB rays. Sunscreens with this level of protection will block 93% of the sun's UVB rays. Although you may see products with SPF of 45 and higher, there is little additional benefit to using these higher ratings; the key is to apply the sunscreen you do have correctly.

It's a little trickier to find a way to protect against UVA rays. There is no standard measurement like the SPF to show how well a sunscreen protects against UVA. Next year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to release new guidelines on sunscreen products.

For additional information on choosing and using sunscreen, download our Sunscreen Tip Sheet.

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