Saving Your Skin: How to Read Sunscreen Labels

Summer is here, and that means spending a lot of time outdoors in the sunshine. But how do you make sure you’re properly protecting your skin?

FOX40 is asking dermatologist Dr. Michael Trauner some questions you might have about sunscreen:

What SPF should adults be wearing? Should it be different than kids? What’s the recommended SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.  It is a multiplier of the time it takes to get a sunburn.  For example, if it takes someone 10 minutes to get a sunburn, and they apply a sunscreen with SPF 30, you multiply 10 minutes times 30 and now you theoretically are protected from a sunburn for 300 minutes.

I recommend a minimum of SPF30 for all of my patients.  There are sunscreens designed for kids. Usually, these cause less irritation if it gets into their eyes.  Kids should still use a minimum of SPF30.

Does the “sport” label make a difference?
A “sport” sunscreen is ideal for active individuals who might break into a sweat with exercise. If a sport sunscreen is used on the face, it won’t burn when sweat runs into the eyes.

Should you wear moisturizers and makeup with SPF in it?
I recommend moisturizer and makeup with SPF to be used year round.  For summertime outdoor activities, I would recommend applying a broad spectrum sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. Apply a generous amount to all exposed skin surfaces and remember to reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours while outdoors.  If someone is going in and out of the water, it would be a good idea to reapply the sunscreen every 1-1.5 hours to achieve good protection.

Spots, lesions, and skin discolorations to look out for this summer — what should you do if you find a suspicious spot?
Everyone should examine their skin regularly for any changes or new growths.  You should look for any brown or black spots that have changed size, shape or color.  You should be suspicious of any skin growth that bleeds easily or keeps scabbing over.  My definition of bleeding easily is towel drying after a bath or shower.  Normal skin should not bleed with towel drying.