Preventing Skin Cancer: Sun Protection Tips

Skin cancer is on the rise.  Here are some tips from Dr. Brandith Irwin on sun protection.

  • Use a sunscreen (SPF 30 with 5-10% zinc) on your face, neck, chest and back of hands daily.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat that protects your face and ears—especially if you are losing hair.
  • Wear large close-fitting sunglasses with UV protection to protect against eye damage and wrinkles around the eyes.
  • Stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm, when the sun is the strongest.
  • Cover up! Try UV protective clothing (a typical white T-shirt only has an SPF of 7).
  • Be sure that you take 2,000 units of vitamin D daily if you use regular sunscreen and live in the Northwest.  Ask your primary care doctor or dermatologist to test your blood level of vitamin D.

Picking a Good Sunscreen

There are two components of the sun UVB (“burning ray”) & UVA (“aging ray”, stimulates pigment) that you want to make sure your sunscreen is blocking. Both UVB & UVA damage can lead to skin cancers. UVA is stronger and more prevalent than UVB; it comes through clouds and window glass. It is important to wear sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days because you are still being exposed.

  • Ingredients: Look for products that contain at least SPF 30 (protects from UVB) with 5-10% zinc oxide (protects from UVA).
  • For daily wear, if you are inside: Apply a facial moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF 30 protection every morning. There are many options, but the key is to find a good broad spectrum sunscreen you like and will use regularly.
  • For days spent outdoors: Apply a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen with water resistance. Reapply every 2 hours and use in addition to hats and sunglasses.
  • Layering products: Apply an antioxidant and moisturize before you apply your sunscreen. You can also layer different types of sunscreen for better protection. For example, after the application of a cream sunscreen apply a tinted powder sunscreen like the Colorescience SPF 30.

Sun Protection Product Recommendations

Sunscreens We Love

  • Elta MD products
  • Vanicream products: excellent for babies and very sensitive skin
  • Colorescience powder brushes
  • SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion
  • DermaQuest ZinClear: 18.6% zinc, great for patients with melasma
  • Neocutis Journee: All in one product, a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen and antioxidants

Sun Protective Clothing

Good Quality Makeup with SPF

  • Jane Iredale
  • Bobbi Brown
  • Laura Mercier

Resources Additional sunscreen tips