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Home > Illness & Symptoms > Skin > Sunburns > Prevention for consumers description

Sunburns- Prevention

Here are some tips to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun: 
- Cover body with long sleeves and pants, broad-brimmed hats, and UV sunglasses. 
- Find shade especially between 10AM to 4PM when UVB rays are strongest-i.e. use an umbrella.  
- Apply sunscreen to exposed areas of the skin for 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours.  You will also need to reapply after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.  
- Stay away from tanning booths. 
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or greater.  

There are several factors that you need to consider when selecting the right kind of sunscreen. It is best to buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against the two harmful rays: UVA and UVB.
Sunscreen with a SPF number on it tells us how effective that sunscreen is in blocking UVB rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 allows a person to stay in the sun 15 times longer with sunscreen on than if they were not wearing sunscreen.  Logically, it seems best to get a sunscreen with the highest SPF possible. However,  a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, an SPF of 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, and an SPF of 45 blocks 98% of UVB rays. As the SPF increases from 30 to 45, there is only a small increase in skin protection from the sun. In addition, sunscreens with a higher SPF not only contain more toxic chemicals that can cause bad side effects, but they also cost more money. Therefore, it is sufficient to get a sunscreen with a SPF of around 15-45. Anything greater than that provides minimal protection. To protect your skin from UVA rays, you should look for sunscreen products that contain one of the following ingredients: Avobenzone, Menthyl Anthranilate, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid, Titanium Dioxide, or Zinc Oxide. 

References: 

1. Crosby, Kimberly. APhA Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs: Chapter 39 Prevention of Sun-Induced Skin Disorders. 16th Edition, Washington DC: American Pharmacists Association, 2009. 
2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Sunburn. April 14, 2011. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sunburn/DS00964. Last accessed September 9, 2011. 
3. Berman, Kevin. Sunburn. May 13, 2011. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/9314.htm. Last accessed September 9, 2011. 

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