A determatologist reminds us to Keep It Simple


It's summer, which means sun-worshipping, outdoor fun, and days on the beach and boat. That in turn means protecting your skin from too much sun. We all know to use sunblock, but do we really know the basic of how to use it properly? We asked Dr. Oestreicher, a dermatologist in Westport, a few questions.

What SPF protection is adequate?

SPF 30 or above. In the lab they are tested under ideal conditions, without wind and sweating and other factors, and so you only need a 12-15. These numbers are not really accurate. When you are outside, since there is not ideal circumstances, we recommend using SPF 30 and over.

Is there ever a need for a higher SPF?

For most of us a 30 SPF works. For people on certain medications, though, there is some value in higher numbers. If you are outside all day, for four hours or more, you should use a higher SPF. Also, if you are going to be outside for the four hours of peak sunlight then you should use a higher sunscreen.

When are you most vulnerable to the sun’s rays?

The peak sunburn hours are between 10 am and 2-3 pm.

What makes higher SPFs more powerful?

All sunscreens have variants of the same chemicals, but ones with higher SPFs have more.

What ingredients are vital to a proper sun block?

In order to be effective, the sun block must block against both UVA and UVB rays, meaning it has broad spectrum protection. To ensure this, the sun block must contain zinc, titanium, avobenzone or mexoryl. These are the best UVA blockers, in particular.

When should you apply sunscreen?

You should apply sunscreen 25-30 minutes before going out, before the sun penetrates your skin.

How often should you re-apply?

You should apply every four hours. Also, you should apply more often if you are sweating.

Is a sunscreen ever really waterproof?

Sunscreens are never waterproof, but they can be water resistant. The best sunscreens have 40-80 minutes of protection. Look for the words water resistance for 80 minutes if you can. You should always re-apply after swimming, though.

What are the best sunscreens for people with sensitive skin?

The best sunscreens for people with sensitive skin are those that are chemical-free. Also, ones that are zinc or titanium based, with no other chemicals in them, won't irritate. It’s the other chemicals besides zinc and titanium that irritate. Zinc oxide is a good one to use: today is not your grandmother's zinc oxide that you put on your nose, it's much more cosmetically elegant. 

What is the safest tanning method?

Spray tanning is the only healthy tanning method. Tanning booths are highly linked to the development of basal cell skin cancer. When spray tanning, you should always apply sunblock over it, though, as you are still exposed to the sun. As for the spray component of the product, as long as you protect your eyes, ears, and mouth it is safe. 

Are spray sunscreens as effective as the traditional types?

Yes, they are. They are chemically as effective as normal sunscreens. The sunscreen sprays are actually very effective- there was a study where it was found that spray sun blocks were more effective on kids because they were quicker and easier to apply. 

What causes skin cancer?

Skin cancer is caused by the suns ultraviolet energy breaking the double helic bonds and causing thymine dimers, which cause errors in replication of the skin. Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer with about 2.6 million cases per year. This is thought to be due to long-term exposure. Malignant melanoma is the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer and is thought to be due to an acute sunburn. This occurs in younger people and even though there are only 100,000 cases per year, there are about 32,000 deaths.

3 Sunscreens Dr. Ostreicher Recommends

Anthelios 60-Melt-In Sunscreen Milk

Natural Protection Mineral Block Sunblock Lotion SPF 30

Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30

Dr. Ostreicher works for Adult & Pediatric Dermatology Specialists in Westport and Trumbull. He has also served as the head of the dermatology department at Bridgeport Hospital for eleven years, has written several chapters in books. Among many awards he has won, he has been cited as a top doctor for more than ten years in a row.

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