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Sunscreen questions? We've got you covered

Many parents are unsure about how to effectively protect themselves and their kids from the sun's damaging effects. We're shedding light on common sunscreen questions and providing smart sun safety tips you can practice all year long. 

Do I need sunscreen if it's cool or cloudy outside?

Applying sunscreen is necessary even on cloudy days. Forty percent of the sun's UV rays can actually pass through clouds, which can explain why people often have sunburns on cloudy days if they spent a considerable amount of time outdoors without adequate protection. I wear sunscreen year round on my face, neck and back of my hands.

Do my kids need to use sunscreen that is made for babies/children?

Babies younger than six months should be kept out of the sun since their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen and possesses little melanin, making them more susceptible to the sun's damaging effects. If you can't avoid the sun, use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby's exposed skin, like the hands and face. For children six to 12 months, uses a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ to areas left uncovered. While you don't have to choose a sunscreen that is made for children that would be my first choice since it could be better for sensitive skin. Also, most companies have tear-free formulas that won't sting baby's eyes. If using spray, mist into hands prior to spreading on the face. Water-resistant, spray-on sunscreens are a good choice for toddlers who won't sit still.   

If I wear clothes with sun protection, do I need to wear sunscreen?

Clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) listing on the label offers extra security. UPF indicates what fraction of the sun's UV rays can penetrate the fabric. A shirt with a UPF of 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun's UV radiation to reach the skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends clothing with a UPF of 30 or higher. I recommend still wearing sunscreen for added protection.  

Do I need to worry about sunscreen if I have dark skin?

Although people with more pigmentation in their skin tend to have a lower skin cancer risk, this doesn't mean they're immune to it. Even if you have a dark complexion, you could have genes that make you more susceptible to skin cancer.

Is last year's bottle is still ok to use this year?

Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Some sunscreens include an expiration date indicating when they're no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date. If you buy sunscreen that doesn't have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle. Also, discard sunscreen that is more than three years old, has been exposed to high temperatures or has obvious changes in color or consistency. If you use sunscreen generously and frequently, a bottle of sunscreen shouldn't last from one year to the next.

Is higher SPF better?

Sunscreen with SPF-15 protects against 93 percent of UV rays, while an SPF-30 protects against 97 percent of UV rays. But, very high SPF numbers (SPF-100+) are mostly marketing ploys. Most experts believe SPF-30 is enough, provided you put on enough. Most people don't use enough sunscreen. The trick to using sunscreen successfully is reapply, reapply, reapply. It is best to apply 15-20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.

If I put sunscreen on my face, arms, legs, back, and neck, I'm good-to-go, right?

Be sure not to overlook key areas such as the ears, back of the hands and back of the neck, which are commonly missed. Wearing a hat is a good way to avoid sunburn to the scalp and doubles as face protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. Start kids early wearing hats and sunglasses outside for added protection so they become familiar with this routine.

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