Elderderm, Senior Dermatology in Roanoke, Virginia
Michele Meinhart, Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner
Q: How do I know which sunscreen to use? There are so many choices. Do you recommend a particular brand or level of sunscreen?
A: Choosing a sunscreen can seem like a daunting task. There are ranges from SPF of 4 to 100; however, recently there have been new regulations developed by the FDA which are now required for all Sunscreens. Using a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher is now recommended by the FDA. These products should be applied regularly and as directed. Re-apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more often if you’re sweating or getting in and out of the water. Sunscreens now must state the length of time required for efficacy. Research has shown that sunscreens with ratings between 15 and 50 have demonstrated efficacy. Ratings below 15 are not effective and ratings above 50 do not work better than those with a rating of 50. Please choose a Branded Sunscreen for best results, I like Frog and Elta MD.
Q: I enjoy being outside during the warm months and early fall but am concerned about excessive sun exposure. When should I go out and what else can I do besides wearing sunscreen?
A: The best time to be outside during the summer is early morning and early evening. Avoid going out between 10am and 4pm. You can also wear long sleeved clothing, hats, and sunglasses. A new company Coolibar sells these clothing items and they can be purchased online. All fabrics disrupt UV radiation. We rate these fabrics with a UPF rating which stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. If indicated how effectively fabrics shield skin from ultraviolet rays. A rating of 15 is good and 50+ is excellent.
Q: What is the difference between UVA rays and UVB rays?
A: UVA (320-400 nm) rays: (1) Cause premature skin aging, wrinkling and potentially skin cancer. (2) Penetrates more deeply than UVB rays. (3) Can impact skin during any hour of daylight. (4) Can penetrate clouds and untreated glass.
UVB (290-320) rays: (1) Causes sunburn; also contributes to premature skin aging and potentially to skin cancer. (2) Causes most impact between 10am and 4 pm. (3) Can penetrate clouds, but not glass.
Skin changes with time as part of the normal aging process. Many factors affect this process such as sun exposure, smoking, diet, genetics, and even gravity. As you get older, you may notice that your skin is more fragile or dry. It also loses tone and texture. This is the result of changes in the underlying tissues. The normal supporting structures of fat cells and blood vessels diminish which increases the risk of bruising and wrinkling. Many of these factors are out of your control but some can be changed. Daily sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is helpful. It’s never too late to stop smoking. Eating a well balanced diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat will also improve skin health; as will a good night’s sleep.