Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wis. – With Memorial Day marking the “unofficial” start of summer, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals are encouraging sun safety awareness and reminding everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.
Following guidance from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the CDC, HSHS experts offers the following answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the use of sunscreen.
Who should wear sunscreen?
Everyone older than six months of age who will be spending any time outside. Children younger than six months old shouldn’t be exposed to the sun’s rays for any length of time.
Do I only need to put on sunscreen when it is sunny outside?
No. You should apply sunscreen every day if you will be outside. The sun emits UV rays year-round, and even on cloudy days up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. The reflection from sand, sun and even snow can increase your need for sunscreen.
What are Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays, and which are more harmful?
The sun’s UVB rays are the most harmful to skin, contributing to skin cancer and premature aging. All sunscreens contain protection against UVB rays, but not all provide protection from damaging UVA rays.
What sunscreen should I use?
To protect your skin from sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer, everyone should use sunscreen that offers:
- Broad-spectrum protection that protects against sunlight’s ultraviolet A- and B-rays (UVA and UVB).
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher.
- Water-resistant (effective for up to 40 or 80 minutes in water). Reapply after getting out of the water or sweating.
Is a higher SPF sunscreen better than a lower SPF sunscreen?
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun's UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun's UVB rays. A higher-number SPF does not mean you can spend additional time outdoors without reapplying.
How much sunscreen should I use and how often should I apply it?
The AAD recommends you apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that clothing will not cover. Don’t forget to:
- Apply to the top of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.
- Apply to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
- Protect your lips by applying a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Does sunscreen expire?
Yes. If you find a bottle of sunscreen that you have not used for some time, here are the AAD guidelines:
- The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years.
- If the expiration date has passed, throw the sunscreen out.
- If you buy a sunscreen that does not have an expiration date, write the purchase date on the bottle.
- Look for visible signs the sunscreen may no longer be effective – discoloration or change in the product’s consistency.
In addition to these sunscreen tips, you can also protect yourself from the sun’s rays by limiting time in direct sunlight, using an umbrella for shade, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and wearing long sleeves and pants.
For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s Sunscreen Resource Center.
About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.
About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.