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Understanding the Importance of Sun Protection

Updated: Jun 22


Everyone loves sunlight and warm weather, and while it does have its benefits, it is important to protect your skin. Sunlight is helpful in producing vitamin D but too much sun exposure can pose harmful risks. Sunburn is a very common skin condition that most people have experienced and having even just one blistering sunburn before the age of 18 could double the lifetime risk of melanoma. Sunscreen helps protect you from overexposure of the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can contribute to wrinkles, premature aging, and skin cancer.




Ultraviolet Radiation

Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) is a type of energy produced by the sun. There are two types that concern us, ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) and ultraviolet B radiation (UVB).

  • 95% of UVR that reaches our skin is UVA, which is responsible for photoaging, wrinkling, age spots.

  • UVA can even penetrate the windows of your car.

  • UVB rays make up a smaller percentage but is found to be ~200 times more powerful than UVA in burning your skin.

  • Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.

  • 70-80% of UVR penetrates clouds, so yes, you can still get sunburnt even when it is cloudy outside.

  • UV rays can also reflect off of water and snow, so it doesn’t have to be warm outside to get a sunburn.


Protection

Skin should constantly be protected from UV damage by the use of sunscreens that will block both UVA and UVB, meaning it is labeled as “broad-spectrum” and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied at least every 40-80 minutes.


Which Sunscreen do I choose?

There are two different types of sunscreen, chemical and physical (mineral).

  1. Chemical sunscreens absorb and block transmission of UVR to the epidermis of your skin.

  • Contains many different ingredients including: avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene and homosalate.

  • Pros

  • Thinner substance

  • Usually waterproof and sweatproof

  • Cons

  • Not suited for sensitive skin because can be very irritating

  • Needs about 15-30 minutes to absorb into skin

  1. Physical sunscreens are opaque and act by reflecting and scattering UVR

  • Only contains two ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

  • Pros

  • More suitable for those with sensitive skin.

  • Works immediately upon application

  • Cons

  • Thicker and heavier

  • Leaves a white residue on top of skin

  • Can wear off easily


Photosensitivity

There are some medications that can cause some photosensitivity, therefore making it more likely for you to burn.

Some medications that can cause sensitivity are:

  • Tetracyclines (minocycline, doxycycline)

  • Antihistamines

  • NSAIDs

  • Sulfonamides

  • Thiazide diuretics

  • Some anti-diabetic medications

This list is NOT all inclusive and it is important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist to check if any of your medications cause sun sensitivity.


Let Harbor Town Pharmacy Help You!

Having trouble finding the right sunscreen for you? Harbor Town carries several different sunscreen products in our OTC section. If you can’t find a specific sunscreen you are looking for, we can likely order it for you and have it the next day. We are here to help you with questions you may have about your medications that could possibly cause sun sensitivity, which sunscreen would be best for you, or just any medication related questions you may have. Stop in and see us today and let us help you protect your skin!


Written by Brittany Branum, PharmD Candidate 2023

Reviewed by Kelsey Newell, PharmD




Sources:
  • Law R.M., & Maibach H.I. (2020). Skin care and minor dermatologic conditions. DiPiro J.T., & Yee G.C., & Posey L, & Haines S.T., & Nolin T.D., & Ellingrod V(Eds.), Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach, 11e. McGraw Hill. https://accesspharmacy-mhmedical-com.ezproxy.uthsc.edu/content.aspx?bookid=2577&sectionid=228344198

  • Wu, MD, D. (2022). Sun protection: Appropriate sunscreen use - Harvard Health. Retrieved 11 April 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sun-protection-appropriate-sunscreen-use-2018062114114#:~:text=We%20recommend%20that%20everyone%20use,in%20protection%20against%20UV%20radiation.



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