How to choose the right sunscreen

Ramsay Farah, MD

Ramsay Farah, MD

You can buy sunscreens with SPFs higher than 30, but you don’t need a higher sun protection factor to protect your skin from the sun and ultraviolet radiation, according to Ramsay Farah, MD, the division chief of dermatology at Upstate.

He offers this advice for reducing your risk of skin cancer as well as sunburn:

  • Apply sunscreen a half hour before you go out in the sun.
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently — every two to three hours when you’re in the direct sun.
  • Make sure the label says the sunscreen shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens are traditionally weaker at getting UVA radiation.
  • There’s no such thing as a truly waterproof sunscreen, so after you get out of the water, you need to reapply your sunscreen.
  • Sunscreens are essentially the same for children and adults, although some are marketed for kids. For children younger than 6 months of age, however, it’s probably better to dress them in protective clothing than to use sunscreen.
  • Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are good sunscreen ingredients because they physically block the sun’s rays and are inert, so they don’t react with anything in your body. Modern formulations avoid giving you a pasty look.

Hear Farah’s radio interview about sunscreens. This article appears in the summer 2015 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Set of suntan cream

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