How to Minimize the Harmful Effects of the Sun and Prevent Skin Cancers

April 18, 2021

Saad Dinno, pharmacist and owner of Acton pharmacy, Keyes Drug in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy is the presenter of A Healthier You, a show that runs on Acton TV. The goal of the show is to discuss relevant health topics and provide information to the viewers that will guide them to a healthy lifestyle.

Below is an excerpt of an interview with Dr. Ira Skolnik, a dermatologist with Family Dermatology, P.C., in Concord, MA talking about sunscreen protection and minimizing the harmful effects of the sun.

Saad Dinno:

Today’s topic is skin cancer or skin care. I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Ira Skolnik, a dermatologist from Family Dermatology, P.C. in Concord, Massachusetts and the President of Massachusetts Academy of Dermatology. With summer under way, Dr. Skolnik is here to offer advice on how to enjoy the summer sun while still being health conscious about the impact of sun on your skin and overall health. Skincare has emerged as an important health concern over the last decade. While the interest in skincare continues to grow, so does confusion about skin products, disease, and treatments. Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. With such alarming numbers, it is important to understand how to recognize symptoms of skin cancer and how to prevent it.

What are your suggestions on SPF values and what recommendations do you make about applying sunscreen? If you have a high SPF sunscreen, do you have to apply it as frequently as those of lower SPF? Waterproof, water-resistant, do they really work as well as the bottles say they do?

Dr. Skolnik:

First of all, SPF stands for sun protection factor. That’s the little number that you see on the label on the outside of the bottle and that’s an indication of how well or how much of the sun’s rays, that particular sunblock, can block from reaching your skin. This is what I tell my patients: above SPF 30 – an SPF 30, an SPF 60, or an SPF 100 – are all fine.

It doesn’t mean that if now I bought an SPF of 60, I only need to apply it half as often as an SPF 30 and since I don’t have time to keep applying sunscreen, I’ll get the 60 because I know I don’t have to apply it as often – not true at all!

Sunscreens, if you read the package inserts very carefully in the labeling, they will all say that they need to be reapplied about every hour and a half, two hours, during a midsummer peak day in July or August. If you’re sweating a lot, if you are going swimming, working out, anything where there’s a lot of moisture on your skin, it really needs to be applied immediately after the moisture gets off of your skin.

There is a lot of confusion out there about water-resistant and waterproof and the general feeling is that there’s a little bit of mislabeling going on, and a little bit of a false sense of security when people apply a sunscreen that’s labeled water resistant or waterproof, that they don’t have to reapply it. That’s actually not true. Water-resistant or waterproof may give you a little bit longer benefit if you’ve been in the water or you’ve been sweating, maybe. And when I mean a little bit of a benefit, I mean maybe an extra 15 or 20 minutes at the most, not an extra hour or two hours. So it still needs to be reapplied.

Watch the video to learn more about:

  1. The effectiveness of a spray vs a cream sunscreen and the pros and cons of each
  2. How to treat a sunburn
  3. Why some sunscreens are labeled specifically for children
  4. The link between tanning beds and skin cancer
  5. Three common skin cancer types and treatment options: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma
  6. How to look for the signs of skin cancers using the ABCD method.