Davis, MSN, APRN, is a nurse practitioner at Masonicare Primary Care
Physicians in Wallingford, where she specializes in general medical
dermatology for adults. Ms. Davis treats a variety of skin disorders
and performs biopsies and the excision/destruction of lesions. With the
summer here, Ms. Davis gives us some practical information on how we
can best protect ourselves from skin damage caused by excessive sun
Exposing your skin to the sun causes premature aging and leads to
wrinkles, age spots, dilated blood vessels and changes in skin texture. Unfortunately, it also increases your risk of developing skin cancer,
and as we know, some forms of skin cancer can be deadly. It’s vitally
important that we protect our skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, and
the use of a high-quality sunscreen plays a major role in providing that
What type of sunscreen should I use?
If you’ve looked around the sunscreen aisle at the supermarket or
drugstore these days, you know that choosing a sunscreen can be
overwhelming. The shelves are loaded with gels, sticks, sprays and
oil-free versions in addition to the traditional lotions we grew up
with. The best sunscreen to buy depends on you, because it must be one
you’ll be willing to use every day. Ask yourself the following
questions to help you make the right choice:
- Are you active or involved in sports? Gel based sunscreen is best.
- Do you have trouble with acne? Oil free is for you.
- Is your skin dry? Use creamy sunscreen.
- Is your skin sensitive or do you have rosacea? Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Do you have a lot of body hair? The sprays and gels will be best for you.
- Looking for sunscreen for children? Buy stick sunscreen – its waxy formula doesn’t drip into eyes.
Once I choose my sunscreen, what’s the best way to apply it?
Research shows that most people aren’t applying enough sunscreen to
be adequately protected. Once you have a sunscreen that feels good on
your skin, you want to make sure you’re applying it correctly. Be sure
to apply it to dry skin 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside, putting
it on all areas of your skin that will be exposed to the sun. This
includes face, ears, neck and hands – and don’t forget your scalp if
How much sunscreen should I apply?
You need a lot more than you think – a full shot glass worth for your
entire body. And you need to re-apply it at least every two hours, and
especially after swimming or sweating. Water resistant sunscreen can
lose effectiveness after 40 minutes in the water. Also, don’t forget to
reapply the sunscreen after toweling off.
Do I need to use sunscreen when it’s cloudy?
Yes! Even on a
cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the
clouds. Sand and snow also reflect ultraviolet light, and it passes
through glass as well.
How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide act as a physical sun
block. They reflect UV rays and tend not to irritate sensitive skin. Sunscreens with avobenzone or oxybenzone absorb UV radiation and can be
irritating for people with sensitive skin. The SPF label stands for
“sun protection factor” and refers to how well the sunscreen protects
against UVB radiation. Sunscreens labeled broad spectrum block both UVB
and UVA rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 protects against about 93
percent of ultraviolet light and an SPF of 30 protects against 97
percent. No SPF can block 100% of UV rays.
What are some other ways I can protect my skin?
Seek shade when possible and avoid direct sunlight when the sun’s
rays are strongest – between 10 am and 4 pm. Remember that ultraviolet
light bounces off sand, water, pavement and decks, so umbrellas are a
good idea, although they don’t provide full protection. You should use
sunscreen daily along with protective clothing, wide brimmed hats and
sunglasses. Clothing can absorb or reflect some ultraviolet light, but
light colored and loose knit fabrics are not protective enough. There
are companies that have developed clothing lines with an ultraviolet
protection factor; there are also laundry additives you can put in the
washer with your clothes to increase their ultraviolet protection
To sum it up, sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for
skin cancer and signs of premature aging. Be sure to follow the
guidelines below to decrease your risk:
- Generously apply broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Re- apply every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear protective clothing and a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible.
- Avoid direct sun exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest – between 10 am and 4 pm.
Remember – play it safe. You won’t be sorry!
Masonicare Primary Care Physicians is conveniently located in
Masonicare’s MedicalOfficeBuilding, just off Route 150 on the Masonicare
campus in Wallingford.
For office hours and additional information or
to make an appointment with Ms. Davis, please call 203-265-0355.