July is UV Safety Awareness Month and the perfect time to discuss common sunscreen questions and concerns. 


When should I apply sunscreen?

We recommend using sunscreen daily all year round as the sun’s rays reflect off surfaces such as snow, sand and even concrete, so be sure to protect your skin.  In the morning we recommend that sunscreen go on after moisturizers or other creams, but before makeup. Apply sunscreen approximately 15-20 minutes before going outdoors as it takes time for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. We recommend reapplying your sunscreen every two hours and / or immediately after swimming or sweating no matter what SPF strength is used. 


How should I apply my sunscreen?

It is important to know how to effectively apply sunscreen to protect our skin against skin cancer and premature aging. Most adults need about 1 ounce (or enough to fill a shot glass) to cover their full body. Apply sunscreen to dry skin, rub it in thoroughly into all sun exposed areas. It should form a film on the skin when initially applied. 


What sunscreen should I use?

It is that time of year again when everyone is talking about what sunscreen to use and asking for recommendations. There are several different types of sunscreens to choose from which can be quite overwhelming. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. There are two main types of sunscreens, physical / mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. Physical / mineral based sunscreens which stay on top of your skin and act like a shield reflecting the sun’s rays.  They work as soon as you apply them and are gentler on the skin, therefore better for sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens penetrate the top layer of your skin and absorb UV rays. They should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure to be most effective. We prefer physical blockers but finding one that you love and will use is most important.


Think about sun protection and sun damage at a cumulative level. Protecting yourself from a sunburn today is important, but long-term protection from skin cancers and photoaging is critical (and can save your life!). If you follow the advice above, your skin (and your dermatology provider) will thank you!


Written by: TONI DINGMANN, MS, PA-C​