Sunscreen 101: Why It’s That Worth It

L'oreal Paris Sunscreen and It's That Worth It Campaign

For the eleventh year, Miami Swim Week took over Miami Beach last weekend with a bevy of hot bodies strutting across stages and floating runways to entice buyers and media with next season’s swimwear and resort wear looks. With models on full display, there was one thing they all had in common: a golden tan*. It’s the summer trend that never goes out of style, yet most don’t realize it’s also the most dangerous.

In fact, skin cancer is such a serious issue that L’oreal Paris recently launched their It’s THAT Worth It campaign to stress the importance of sunscreen use and support the Melanoma Research Alliance. (*Spoiler Alert: all of the swim week models get tanned by makeup artists backstage!)

Your parents can’t chase you down and force you to layer on the SPF forever! I’ve been wearing an SPF 15 on my face regularly since high school, but recently upgraded my skincare routine to daily SPF 50 face lotion thanks to the advice of Dr. Shaun Patel of Miami Skin and Vein. I sat down with him to answer all the questions you might have about sun damage, wrinkles, and what you shouldn’t go a day without it.

1.  Why is it important to wear sunscreen?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, close to 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year. And an even scarier statistic is 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. The majority of these cancers, certainly greater than 80% of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers, can be attributed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the most common source of UV exposure being the sun.

There are two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates deeply into the skin and is responsible for skin aging and wrinkling, while UVB affects the superficial aspects of the skin and is responsible for sunburns. It is now believed that both UVA and UVB radiation cause skin cancer.

Sunscreens are chemical or physical ingredients that protect from the damaging effects of UV radiation whether that damage is in the form skin cancer or aging and wrinkles.

Issa de' Mar One Piece Kenya Bikini Strappy Back

2.  There are so many different types of sunscreen, how do I choose the best one and appropriate SPF?

Today, thousands of sunscreen products are available from hundreds of manufacturers and it can be very difficult to determine which one to use. I tell my patients to look for a sunscreen that has a Broad-spectrum label, meaning that it protects from both UVA and UVB radiation. The sunscreen should have a SPF (sun protection factor) of 50. I used to recommend my patients wear SPF 30 daily and SPF 50 on days that they expect extra sun but now I just recommend that they always wear SPF 50 sunscreen.

I also tell my patients to avoid sprays or wipes because those can make it hard to get an even application across the screen. Broad spectrum, SPF 50 sunscreens in cream, lotion, or gel form are what I recommend.

3.  How often should sunscreen be reapplied?

One of the problems we have is that while we may select the right sunscreen we may not use enough. Actually it has been shown on multiple occasions that most people apply less than half the amount of sunscreen that is recommended which reduces the overall protection from the sun’s damaging rays. A simple rule is that it takes about 1 shot glass full (1 oz) of sunscreen to appropriately cover the entire body. 

It’s also important to remember that you should apply your sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going out into the sun. It is also extremely important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Finally, you should also reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming or heavy sweating.

Express Panama Hat and Beach Kimono

4.  Other than sunscreen, what can help prevent sun damage to the skin?

Sunscreen is the most important product when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun. There is no substitute. However, there are certain products that I recommend to my patients to further help prevent sun damage.

Actually, I recommend to any patient that I see in my clinic that they use an antioxidant in addition to sunscreen. Antioxidants such a Vitamin C and E and Phloretin have been shown to provide extra protection from the damaging effects of the sun by preventing damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules in the skin caused by sun exposure, pollution, smoke, etc.)

In addition, I often recommend a moisturizer that will help keep the skin barrier properly functioning. As of late, I have really been pushing moisturizers containing Niacinamide which offers anti-inflammatory effects and can help keep the skin barrier intact.

5.  I’m Latina and never get sunburns – do I still need to use a high SPF?

Absolutely! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the annual incidence of skin cancer in Hispanics is 4 out of every 100,000 persons, which is less than the 25/100,000 for Caucasians but certainly still significant. Actually, basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, is the most common skin cancer in Hispanics.

In addition to helping to prevent skin cancer, sunscreens are the best antiaging product available. The sun’s rays can cause hyper pigmentation, red blotchiness, collagen loss, wrinkles, irregular skin tone and texture – sunscreens (as well as antioxidants) help protect us from this damage. 

Shaun Patel, MD is a Harvard trained physician and Medical Director at Miami Skin and Vein in Coral Gables, Florida. 

Donut Pool Float

One piece Issa de Mar Swimsuit and Everything But Water Beach Coverup Kimono

What I wore

Kenya One Piece Swimsuit c/o Issa de’ Mar* (also in black)

Elan Kimono via Everything But Water

Nude Wedge Sandal c/o Express

Panama Hat c/o Express

Jackie Kennedy Bracelet c/o Taudrey

Tassel Bracelets (similar here)

Donut Float c/o Chandon

*Use code Issademar15 for 15% off  your purchase!

Photos by Bella Mente at The Conrad Miami


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