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Sunscreen and Sunburn FAQ (Sun Damage)
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Sunscreen and Sunburn FAQ


How often should I apply sunscreen when out in the sun?

While some experts believe that frequent application during sun exposure is beneficial, some experiments have shown that a single application of sunscreen will suffice for the day.

How much sunscreen needs to be applied?

The sunscreen will have indicated on their label, the amount of sunscreen required to achieve SPF. These guidelines should be followed. However, it has been shown that the average person who uses sunscreen applies much less sunscreen than the advised amount.

How long before exposure should I apply sunscreen to my skin?

Sunscreens take effect immediately due to the active molecules in the sunscreen. For swimmers, early application allows the skin to absorb the sunscreen, making the sunscreen less likely to wash off. Most modern sunscreens, however, do not wash off easily.

Do children require sunscreen?

Definitely. Skin damage like photoaging, or the development of skin cancer can occur a long time after the time of the initial sun damage. It is absolutely essential that skin is protected adequately from an early age.

What about the elderly?

Many elderly people can be paranoid about sun damage, and sun avoidance, especially if they have existing actinic keratosis or basal cell carcinoma. In reality, it is rare that these will develop into new skin cancers due to sun exposure. As with all people of all ages, proper protection and moderation will lead to a balanced and healthy outdoor life.

What about reactions to sunscreens?

Although possible, allergic reactions to sunscreen are extremely rare. Irritant reactions, however, are relatively common, and you should try different products to see what is right for you. A much more common error occurs when an excessive amount of sunscreen is applied to the forehead, causing the sunscreen to fall towards the eyes through perspiration, causing the eyes to sting. This is often mistaken to be an allergic reaction. Similarly, be sure to wash your hands after applying sunscreen to avoid accidentally rubbing the sunscreen into your eyes.

What is SPF?

SPF, or sun protection factor, is the ratio of minimal ultraviolet dose required to produce redness without a sunscreen to that of with sunscreen. If it takes a person 30 minutes to become sunburned, with proper application of a sunscreen with 15 SPF, that person would take 7.5 hours (15 times longer) to become sunburned.

Do sunscreens prevent cancer?

There is abundant evidence that sunscreens prevent the development of actinic keratoses, warty lesions on the face or hands. These lesions, linked heavily to cumulative sun exposure, can later develop into a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. There is little evidence, however, that sunscreens are effective in preventing other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma. The type of sunlight, and the age at the time of exposure appear to be critical factors in the development of these cancers rather than accumulated exposure.


FAQ,   sun damage,   sunburn,   sunscreen,