Skincare in the sun

SunscreenDermatologists around the world seem to feel that the sun is evil. Even Boris Lushniak, MD, who was one of my interns (and a heck of a nice guy) at St. Joseph Hospital when I was a senior resident, and who is now the Acting Surgeon General of the United States (clearly as a result of my mentorship) recently said, “Americans need to do more to reduce their exposure to the harmful rays of the sun and tanning beds.” I think a better way of saying this would have been to say that Americans need to avoid getting sunburn.

The most important thing is not to avoid sun exposure, but to avoid getting burned. And don’t go to tanning beds unless you are trying to make vitamin D and it’s a SAFE tanning bed. According to Dr. Joe Mercola at Mercola.com, you should only use a tanning bed that has an “electronic ballast” and not a magnetic one. But I say, if you want a tan that badly, why not just use a good tanning lotion such as Clarins Intense Bronze Self Tanning Tint or Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Weeks Tan Lotion.

If you are diligent to avoid sun exposure, you are also avoiding making vitamin D, getting less outdoor exercise and fresh air, and experiencing less of the joy of God’s creation. Plus, it kind of implies that God kind of screwed up when he designed the relationship between mankind and his life-giving shiny sphere in the sky.

Here’s the conundrum: people who avoid the sun or wear sunblock all the time are highly likely to have low or suboptimal levels of vitamin D. And guess what one of the benefits of vitamin D is? Cancer prevention. Plus it can reduce your risk of heart disease, autoimmune disorders, infections, mental health conditions, and more.

Sun beach funHere’s what I’d say: DON’T avoid being in the sun. Instead, if you are going to be out in the midday sun for longer than twenty minutes and especially if you are fair-skinned, slather on some SPF 15 or higher, preferably one that smells good. I happen to especially like Coppertone, because the smell reminds of childhood fun at the beach.

The SPF of a sunscreen supposedly tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting burned. So if you get a burn after 20’ with no lotion, it would take 300 minutes (5 hours) with an SPF15 lotion providing that you reapply it every 2-3 hours or after swimming or sweating a lot.

If you are going to be outside all day, I would consider a higher SPF like 30. And ladies, if you want to avoid premature face wrinkles and you are outside much, put on some sunscreen as part of your morning make-up routine.

Finally, not all sunscreens are created equal. Read about safer sunscreens at www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/

Dr William EpperlyDr. William Epperly, Fellow American Academy of Family Practice
Fellow American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy
Member of Christian Medical and Dental Society.

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