Sun Smart Safety Tips

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Sun Smart Safety Tips
By:  Rachel Harris,

Tis the season for fun in the Arizona sun with swimming in full force, so it is more important than ever to remember several sun smart safety tips when it comes to our powerful sun exposure.  Sadly, Arizona is the #2 place in the world for skin cancer cases, behind the #1 spot of Australia.  And in Australia school kids wear hats where there is a big campaign to keep their citizens aware of the risks.  It is up to us to keep ourselves and our kids sun safe.  To see if you are doing all you can to protect your family from sun damage, take this sun safe quiz.  

Question:  How long before you go into the sun should sunscreen be applied?
  Answer:  According to Board Certified Dermatologist Julie K. Karen, MD, sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun so that it can fully absorb into your skin.

Question:  Should you apply sunscreen before or after you put on your clothes?
  Answer:  Before.  Dr. Karen says that skin cancer can strike anywhere, so it's best to apply sunscreen before you put on your clothes. If you already have it on, you're likely to apply it gingerly so you don't get it on your clothing, which makes it likely to miss spots.

Question:  What is the minimum SPF number you should look for in a sunscreen?
  Answer:  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  Look for any brand with an ingredient called mexoryl, a UVA-blocking compound.  One example of a brand that meets this criteria is La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral sunscreen that is sold at CVS.  La Roche-Posay also carries tinted Anthelios sunscreen, too.

How much sunscreen should it take to cover your entire body?
  Answer:   The American Academy of Dermatology estimates it should take a shot glass size amount of sunscreen to cover your entire body.

Question:  Name five body spots that people routinely forget to apply sunscreen.
  Answer:   Feet, underarms, back of the neck, ears and eyelids.  And don’t forget lips!

Question:  How often should sunscreen be reapplied while outside?
  Answer:   Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours and if you are sweating or swimming, you should reapply more often. You cannot apply once and consider it done for the day, even the sweat proof, waterproof, and long-acting sunscreens wear off.

  Is a baseball cap a good hat to wear for sun protection?
  Answer: No, especially if it is made with a mesh material that lets sun exposure peek in through the holes.  Go for a floppy hat that gives a lot of coverage over your entire face.

Question:  What hairstyles requires extra protection?
  Answer:  If you or your daughter wear braids, especially French or corn rows and if your family member is balding or has thinning hair, use a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide sunblock, such as Lizard Australian Sunscream ($11.99 for 3 oz at or a sunscreen that absorbs both UVA and UVB rays. I read an interesting article in the LA Times with a clever tip that says to change your part often, so that the same area isn’t consistently exposed to the sun.

So how did you do on the quiz?  When I took it, I got 5 out of 7 right, so I consider myself sun savvy and since I live in Phoenix, that is a good thing.  We do also need our Vitamin D, so talk to your dermatologist about your particular skin tone and how much sun is just right for you.  Stay safe and have fun in our Arizona sun, wisely, as we progress through summer.  Remember to check my blog at

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