The Importance of Sunscreen

The long days of summer are here allowing us to enjoy more sun-filled hours outdoors. With this increased exposure to the sun comes an increased need to remember to apply sunscreen and to reapply as needed. Despite warnings of skin cancer and premature aging, millions of people only wear sunscreen occasionally leaving their skin exposed to ultraviolet rays as they go about their daily activities.
At the Medical Spa at Artistry for Plastic Surgery, we routinely see patients with hyper pigmentation, wrinkling and other types of skin damage caused by sun exposure. While there are many modern advances designed to treat sun damaged skin, nothing is as effective as daily application of a high quality sunscreen.

Sunscreen or sun block?

Sunscreen filters the harmful rays of the sun preventing them from penetrating deep into the skin. Sun block uses products, typically zinc oxide, to completely prevent the rays from reaching the skin. Sun block is characterized by the thick white film left on the skin and while this is a great option for areas such as the nose and the tops of the ears, most of us don’t like the feeling of sun block or the look of a white nose.
Sunscreen typically feels lighter on the skin, much like hand lotion. It is made of organic and inorganic chemicals that filter rather than block so the formulations can be more comfortable. Our Med Spa recommends a sun screen in the Obagi line. It is formulated without PABA or fragrance and provides an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Our patients love it.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreen and sunblock formulations protect us from ultraviolet rays of the sun typically referred to as UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause cancer and premature aging. UVB rays are responsible for tanning or burning the skin. Finally UVC rays are completely absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere and do not affect our skin.
SPF rating tells us how long we can be exposed to the sun before damage occurs. It isn’t a one number fits all type of indicator. The number allows us to determine which level of sunscreen protection we need based on how many minutes of sun exposure we can tolerate before the skin burns.
If that number is 10 minutes, as in a fair skinned redhead, an SPF 10 sunscreen multiplies that number by 10. This would mean, in this example, the person could be in the sun for a maximum of 100 minutes with properly sunscreen. If using SPF 50, that number would go up to 500 minutes under perfect conditions.
It is always better to over apply than to test the limits of the SPF number on the product since there are always variable. In addition, expired sunscreen has no value as the formula breaks down and even though it may look and smell fine, there is little to no protection offered.

Prevention is the best strategy

Using a broad spectrum sunscreen is the best insurance against cancer, skin pigmentation, wrinkling and other skin damage. These cosmetic flaws can be minimized through procedures such as laser skin resurfacing or a chemical peel if damage has already occurred but prevention of damage is the number one goal.
Sunscreen works best when applied about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. It must be reapplied frequently to be most effective particularly when enjoying a day at the beach or when swimming or sweat removes the protection.

If it feels good you will use it

Finding a sunscreen that feels good on the skin will encourage frequent use. No one likes a greasy heavy film on the skin, especially when the humidity is high. If sunscreen feels good or better still, feels like nothing at all, people will use it frequently.
This is one of the many reasons we confidently recommended the Obagi line of skincare products to our patients. After testing everything available, we feel Obagi offers our patients the high level of skin care they deserve and the high level of protection we know is necessary to prevent skin damage.

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Dr. Brent Birely is a board-certified plastic surgeon with offices in Lutherville and Bel Air, serving patients from Baltimore, Towson, Columbia, Westminster, and other Maryland cities. He is a very well regarded leader in cosmetic surgery and patient safety, and specializes in procedures including breast augmentation, tummy tuck, mommy makeover, facelift, and body lifting procedures after weight loss.

*The content/images on this website are not a guarantee of individual results. Individual results may vary. The information provided on this site is for general informational purposes only and does not replace the need for a formal consultation with a plastic and reconstructive surgeon before undergoing a surgical procedure or skin care treatment.

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