May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month—a great opportunity to spread the word about the importance of the prevention and treatment of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and more than 2 million people are diagnosed each year.1
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the #1 cause of skin cancer2 and, as we approach summer, it’s important to take precautions and learn how to stay safe in the sun. We recently sat down with Dr. Debra Jaliman, a world-renowned dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), to ask her a few questions about sun protection.
Obagi: What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? Is one more dangerous than the other?
Dr. Jaliman: UVA rays are deep penetrating rays and UVB rays are shorter rays that don’t penetrate deep into the skin. UVB rays are responsible for tanning and are the primary cause of sunburn. Prolonged exposure to UVA rays leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastic tissue in the skin. UVA exposure leads to brown spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.
Obagi: What is the difference between chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens? Which do you recommend?
Dr. Jaliman: Physical sunscreens protect skin from the sun by deflecting or blocking the sun’s rays. They usually contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays but not all UVA rays. Zinc oxide provides full UVA and UVB protection. Chemical sunscreens use chemical UV filters and work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are avobenzone, Helioplex, or Mexoryl SX. Chemical-free sunscreens, or physical sunscreens, are best for people with eczema or rosacea because they’re less irritating.
Obagi: If your makeup has SPF in it, should you still apply sunscreen?
Dr. Jaliman: If your makeup has an SPF in it, you should still apply sunscreen. Most makeup with SPF contains a minimum amount of protection; usually they’re only SPF 15. You should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater for full protection.
Obagi: Does a higher SPF provide better protection than a lower SPF? How high should one go?
Dr. Jaliman: According to the new regulations of the American Academy of Dermatology, everyone should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing an SPF of 30 or greater.
Obagi: Should you wear sunscreen even when indoors?
Dr. Jaliman: You should wear sunscreen even if you spend most of your time indoors because UVA rays can penetrate through window glass.
Obagi: How often should sunscreen be applied?
Dr. Jaliman:You should apply sunscreen on dry skin 15 minutes before going outside. Re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours. Apply sunscreen immediately after swimming or if sweating. Follow the directions on the bottle of your sunscreen. Don’t leave your sunscreen out in the sun as it can decompose.
Obagi: Many people think that darker skin tones have natural sun protection. Is sunscreen still necessary?
Dr. Jaliman: Everyone regardless of skin color needs protection from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day is a must as sun damage is cumulative.
Obagi: Is there a way to tan safely to still get that golden glow?
Dr. Jaliman: There is no way to tan safely. You can get that golden glow using a self-tanner without risking any damage to your skin.
While we all love to get a little sun, it can come with some dangerous risks. Take Dr. Jaliman’s advice and make sure you stay safe and always remember to wear your sunscreen as you enjoy the warmth. Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 offers high-level UVA/UVB protection in an elegant, matte finish that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy. It’s the perfect companion to your daily skin care regimen—on the beach, at the park, and anytime you’re on the go!
For more information about Dr. Jaliman or to get more expert tips and advice, mouse over and explore the image above or read our Simple Steps to Early Skin Cancer Detection post
1. Skin cancer facts. Skin Cancer Foundation Web site. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts. Accessed April 11, 2013.
2. Cosmetic procedures: sun exposure and skin cancer. WebMD Web site. http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/sun-exposure-skin-cancer. Accessed April 11, 2013.