Sun Safety

Sun Safety

Grab Your Hat, Grab Your Sunscreen!

Health Tip: Sunscreen

Sun ScreenThere are so many options to choose from when picking out a sunscreen that selecting the right one can be overwhelming. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has recently updated their guidelines and issued new rules for labeling products to make it easier for consumers to make appropriate choices. Under these new guidelines, consumers will know from the sunscreen label whether the product is broad spectrum, and protects against skin cancer, or whether it will just help prevent a sunburn.

Sunscreen products with SPF 15 or lower must carry a warning that states it will not protect the user against skin cancer. Products can also no longer use the word “waterproof” or “sweatproof.” Instead, they must be characterized as “water resistant." If a product labels itself as “water resistant” it should also list a time limit of 40 or 80 minutes — the time it takes before the sunscreen becomes ineffective and should be reapplied. Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, along with other protective measures, is needed to defend against excessive Ultra Violet (UV) light that can damage the skin’s cellular DNA and lead to cancer.

There are two main types of UV light that reach the skin: UVA and UVB. Sunscreen provides physical and chemical protection from UV light. Physical sunscreen forms an opaque film over the skin to scatter or reflect UV light before it can penetrate the skin. Chemical sunscreen absorbs the UV light before it can cause damage to the skin.

Tips for buying sunscreen

• Make sure the product actually contains sunscreen. Many tanning oils and lotions do not have any Skin Protective Factor (SPF).
• Choose a sunscreen that is “broad band” or “broad spectrum” to provide protection from both UVA and UVB light.
• Buy a lotion with a minimum of SPF 15. SPF 15 protects against 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 protects against 97%.
• Read the label to check for any dyes or fragrances that may irritate your skin.
• “Water Resistant” sunscreens are great if you are going to be swimming or playing sports. Make sure to reapply according to the label recommendations.
• Look at the expiration date. Most sunscreens have ingredients that degrade over time.

Tips for applying sunscreen

• Everyone over the age of 6 months should wear sunscreen. Infants under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight, under shade and in protective clothing.
• Shake sunscreen lotion well before applying to the skin in order to mix particles.
• Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time for it to absorb.
• Generously apply about a handful of sunscreen to all exposed skin areas. Don’t forget to apply to your ears, lips, feet, hands, scalp, and back of the neck. Also, remember to rub sunscreen under bathing suit straps, sunglasses, and jewelry.
• Even if it is cloudy outside, you still need to apply sunscreen. Research shows that up to 40% of the sun’s UV light reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. Be mindful when planning outdoor activities during the hours of 10am-4pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Tightly woven clothes can help protect against UV rays. In addition, wear wide brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses for additional protection for your face.


Skin Cancer Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals.

The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

LifeWork Strategies
EAP, Work/Life and Wellness Solutions
EAP Members Call: 1-877-252-8550


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