Sunscreen

Anyone who lives in southern Arizona is aware that sun exposure can be bad for your skin.  Even a "healthy" tan is actually a sign of damaged skin.  But sunscreens can be confusing.  At Mesquite Pediatrics, we feel it is important that people are as informed as possible about sunscreens and their use.  Below are some facts and recommendations for our patients.

  • Ingredients are more important than SPF:  Sunburns are caused by UVB radiation, but 95% of cancer-causing radiation from the sun is UVA.  The SPF only indicates how well a sunscreen blocks UVB and has nothing to do with its ability to block UVA.  The following ingredients block UVA:  avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and ecamsule.  Many sunscreens do not contain any of these ingredients.  Avobenzone and oxybenzone are not as effective as the others and don’t last as long.  There is usually no difference between a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 and one with an SPF of 50.
  • Sunscreen needs to be applied FREQUENTLY:  Many sunscreen ingredients degrade in the sun.  When not in the water or sweating significantly it should be re-applied every 2 hours.  “Water/sweat resistant” sunscreen lasts 40 minutes in the water or when sweating.  “Very water/sweat resistant” or “Water-Proof” sunscreen lasts 80 minutes.
  • Most people don’t put on enough or they put it on too late: The amount you use can really affect the protection you get.  Apply more than you think you need and do it 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
  • It is OK to use sunscreen on very young babies: You do not have to wait until a baby is 6 months old to use sunscreen.  For all children it is best to protect their skin with clothing and a hat, but sunscreen can be used after 1 month of age if sun exposure can’t be avoided.  Use one that is made for babies or labeled as “hypo-allergenic”.
  • Don’t use sunscreens that are combined with insect repellents: Sunscreens need to be re-applied at least every 2 hours (more often if sweating or swimming) but insect repellents shouldn’t be re-applied.