Date: June 28, 2022

Here Comes the Sun

Here Comes the Sun
Tanenbaum Dermatology Center offers advice on sun protection for the summer.

It’s summer in Memphis, and that means three things: heat, humidity, and harmful UV rays. Technically, those rays are always a threat, but you’re more likely to be outside soaking up the sun during the summer months. Never fear because Tanenbaum Dermatology Center in Crosstown Concourse has you (and your skin) covered.You may not know your UVA from your UVB or your SPF from your PA+, but Tanenbaum Dermatology physician assistant Jessica Shelton does, and she’s here to break it down for us.“We’ve all heard about sunscreen and SPF, but I’m not sure how much we really know about the two types of sun rays — UVA and UVB rays. The sun puts out both, but different types of sunscreen protect against different kinds of rays.”Shelton says UVA rays are more associated with tanning and skin aging, while UVB rays are associated with sunburns and the DNA damage inside skin cells that can lead to cancer.
“We see skin cancer and pre-cancer throughout the year, but there’s definitely an uptick in sun damage in the summer,” said Shelton.
To protect against those cancer-causing UVB rays, Shelton recommends an SPF sunscreen (SPF stands for “sun protection factor”) rather than a PA+ sunscreen, which protects against tanning more than cancer. It’s possible you’ve never even seen a PA+ sunscreen (sometimes shown with more than one plus sign) because there’s not much of a desire to protect against tanning in the U.S.
“America is known as a sunny country with tan people, and generally, we’re more concerned about burning and cancer than tanning,” Shelton said. “But in other countries, tanning is considered unattractive, and in those countries, you’ll see different types of sunscreen ratings, like PA+. Using an SPF won’t keep you from getting a tan.”
So we know we need an SPF, but which number is best? You might be surprised to learn that an SPF 100 sunscreen doesn’t offer much more protection than an SPF 30.
“SPF is measured on a logarithmic scale. People are used to things being exponential, where things increase rapidly, but a logarithmic scale is the opposite of that,” Shelton said. “As the number goes up, you get diminishing returns with a higher SPF rating. The amount that SPF 30 is more protective than SPF 15 is not the same as SPF 45 to 30. It’s a smaller jump.”
A sunscreen higher than SPF 30 only offers marginally more sun protection as the rating increases. But no matter the SPF, Shelton says the most important thing to remember is to reapply often if you’ll be in the sun for several hours.
There are also two types of SPF sunscreen: physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen.
“When you think of the white ones that you smear on, like the white stuff you’d smear on your nose in the 70s, that’s a physical sunscreen. It’s a mineral or metal particle that’s reflective, and it’s a physical blocker because it causes the sun rays to bounce off the material and back into the atmosphere to keep it from going into your skin,” Shelton said.
You might get more bang for your buck with a physical sunscreen, because, as long as it doesn’t wash off the skin, Shelton says it will last a lot longer than a chemical one. She says physical sunscreens may also be better for those who have sensitive skin or rosacea.
Chemical sunscreens are clear and more likely to be found in a spray bottle. When using those, you should wait about 15 minutes after applying before going outside in order for the sunscreen to be most effective, she says.
“Chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin,” Shelton said. “The sun’s rays interact with the chemical, and it absorbs the energy of the sun’s rays into that chemical. Once enough sun’s rays have been absorbed, it depletes the chemical.”
That’s why Shelton recommends reapplying every couple of hours. Of course, that’s an easy thing to forget when you’re having fun in the sun, so Shelton offered a few other tips for additional protection in case you’re not on top of your sunscreen reapplication game.
“As long as you’re wearing your hat, it’s blocking the sun,” Shelton said. “I was a runner in college and high school, and I’d always wear a hat because you can’t sweat off a hat. Sunglasses are great too to protect your eyelids because nobody is slathering sunscreen on their eyeballs.”
Follow Shelton’s tips, and you should be well protected from those harmful UV rays this summer. But keep in mind that Tanenbaum Dermatology is accepting new patients should you notice a skin issue that’s concerning.
Said Shelton: “People may notice a rough spot or sore that won’t heal, and that could be skin cancer.”







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