“Choosing the right sunscreen can help to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early signs of aging by the sun,” says Arianne “Shadi” Kourosh, MD, MPH, director of Community Health in the MGH Department of Dermatology.

On April 27, the Department of Dermatology teamed up with the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center to provide tips on how to enjoy the summer while protecting one’s skin. Amy Sam, Health Education project specialist, and Blum Center interns, Maddie O’Connell and Taylor Shelton, educated attendees about sun safety tips, handed out UV activated key chains and provided visitors with a chance to win a gift tote bag.

During the event, dermatologists also used a portable skin scope to assess sun damage, and taught attendees how to decode sunscreen labels. 

“Basically, there are two types of sunscreen, chemical or physical,” says Kourosh, who shared the following tips on how to have a sun-safe summer. “Each of these protects your skin differently and contains different active ingredients.”

Chemical sunscreen:
--Protects by absorbing the sun’s rays.
--May contain one or more of many possible active ingredients, including oxybenzone or avobenzene.

Physical sunscreen: (often recommended for children 6 months and older or who have sensitive skin)
--Protects by deflecting the sun’s rays.
--Contains the active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.

Read labels and don’t skimp on the sunscreen:
--Use SPF 30 or higher.
--Use broad spectrum sunscreen – it can protect your skin from the sun’s UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays, which helps prevent skin cancer.
--Water resistant: Know how long – either 40 or 80 minutes – the sunscreen will stay on wet skin.

Know when to apply sunscreen:
--Early: Apply about 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
--Enough: Usually use about 2 tablespoons for adults and rub in well. Sprays need to be rubbed in too.
--Often: Reapply every two to three hours, and more often if you are swimming, toweling off or sweating.
--Sunscreens are available in lotions, creams and sprays.

Treat yourself to protective clothing and sunglasses:
--Look for lightweight shirts, pants and sunglasses with UV protection.

Make shade your best friend:
--When possible, seek shade between 10 am – 2 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
--If there is no shade around, use an umbrella or wide-brimmed hat.

Be extra careful around water, sand and snow:
--These surfaces reflect the sun’s rays, increasing the chance for sunburn.

Read more articles from the 05/18/18 Hotline issue.