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Sunscreen and Sunblock (cont.)

How to Prevent Sunburns, Skin Cancers, and Photo-Aging

Although sunscreens are prohibited from making claims regarding their ability to prevent skin cancer and skin aging, they are able to do these things reasonably well. One must remember however that avoiding the sun, sitting in the shade, and wearing opaque clothing is better than relying on sunscreen alone. Developing a tan is only a sign that the skin is damaged by ultraviolet light. The protective effects of tanning are poorly documented. If your skin is darkly pigmented naturally, this is a genetic gift that can protect you from some of the dangerous effects of ultraviolet light. The use of sunscreens lower than SPF 50 makes little logical sense aside from the mistaken belief that there is a significant health or social benefit to tanning. In addition, it is important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Currently, there is no consensus on the grading of the ability of sunscreens to block UVA radiation. Some people believe that darker skin is more esthetically pleasing than lighter-colored skin. There are coloring agents available that do a creditable job at producing a faux tan.

Sun Protection for Babies and Children

Patient Comments

Since babies and children do not understand the damage ultraviolet light can produce, it is our duty as parents and adults to do our best to limit their exposure within reasonable limits. The use of shade, clothing, and sunscreens to prevent tanning and sunburn requires vigilance. It is not recommended to use sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months of age, as keeping young infants out of the sun is preferred to using sunscreen. Use sunscreen only if sun exposure cannot be avoided in young infants.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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