There is no such thing as a safe tan – by definition skin that has been tanned by the sun or from a tanning bed, is damaged skin. Whether you chose to use sunscreen or not, is a personal decision. However, it should be noted that protecting yourself while outdoors is more important than ever, given the rise in cases of skin cancer from today’s harsh sun. Here are some frequently asked questions about sunscreens:
How often should I apply sunscreen?
Many experts recommend that frequent application during sun exposure – every 2-3 hours while exposed.
How long before sun exposure should I apply sunscreen?
Most dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside. Even though sunscreens work immediately upon application, the 20 minute rules allows for the sunscreen to be thoroughly absorbed into the skin. Make sure to reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
What is SPF?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating refers to the amount of protection from UVB rays. The SPF number lets you know how long you can stay in the sun without burning while wearing the product, depending on your skin type (see our Skin Type Chart) Let’s say it takes 25 minutes of sun exposure before you start to turn pink. Using SPF 15 will allow to stay exposed 15 times longer without burning – or 375 minutes (6hrs. 15 minutes).
UVA protection in U.S. sunscreens maxes out at about 15, so higher SPF products will not fully protect your skin from sun damage. The American Cancer Society recommends that people use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15, the American Academy of Dermatology opts for 30.
What is PABA and why do so many sunscreens say they are “PABA-free”?
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) was once a very popular sunscreen ingredient that fell out of favor with manufacturers because of problems with allergic dermatitis and photosensitivity and because it tended to stain clothes yellow. Today marketing a product “PABA-free” is almost meaningless since virtually no sunscreens contain PABA. However, if a PABA-free product is important to you, read the label before buying sunscreen to be sure it is actually PABA-free.