1539 Atwood Ave Suite 301
Johnston, RI 02919
(401) 490-4515
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The regular use of sunscreen is a critical step for reducing the risk of developing skin cancer and preventing the premature aging of the skin caused by sun exposure. Despite what we know about the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun, rising rates of skin cancer and actinic keratoses indicate that more people than ever are spending too much time in the sun without sufficient sun protection.

We perform free skin cancer screenings within our office and carry Elta MD sun screen products that can be found here.


Who needs to use sunscreen?
What are UVA and UVB rays?
When should sunscreen be used?
How much sunscreen should be used, and how often should it be applied?
What type of sunscreen should I use, and what ingredients should I look for?
Is sunscreen application all I need to do to protect myself from the sun?
Is there a safe way to tan?

Are tanning beds a safer way to tan?
How do I treat a sunburn?
Avoid the effects of sun exposure to the skin

Who needs to use sunscreen?
In a word: everyone! More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Many studies have found an association between sunburns and enhanced risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
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What are UVA and UVB rays?
Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays — ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays (which pass through window glass) penetrate deeper into the dermis, the thickest layer of the skin. UVA rays can cause suppression of the immune system, which interferes with the immune system's ability to protect you against the development and spread of skin cancer. UVA exposure also is known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin such as wrinkling and age spots. The UVB rays are the sun's burning rays (which are blocked by window glass) and are the primary cause of sunburn. A good way to remember it is that UVA rays are the aging rays and UVB rays are the burning rays. Excessive exposure to both forms of UV rays can lead to the development of skin cancer.
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When should sunscreen be used?
Sunscreen should be applied every day to exposed skin, not just if you are going to be in the sun. While UVB rays cannot penetrate glass windows, UVA rays can, leaving you prone to these damaging effects if unprotected. For days when you are going to be indoors, apply sunscreen on the areas not covered by clothing, such as the face and hands. Sunscreens can be applied under makeup, or alternatively, there are many cosmetic products available that contain sunscreens for daily use because sun protection is the principal means of preventing premature aging and skin cancer. It's never too late to protect yourself from the sun and minimize your future risk of skin cancer.

Don't reserve the use of sunscreen only for sunny days. Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. In addition, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun's rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun's rays.
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How much sunscreen should be used, and how often should it be applied?
Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors. When using sunscreen, be sure to apply it to all exposed areas and pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands and arms. Coat the skin liberally and rub it in thoroughly — most people apply only 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Don't forget that lips get sunburned too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
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What type of sunscreen should I use, and what ingredients should I look for?
There are so many types of sunscreen that selecting the right one can be quite confusing. Sunscreens are available in many forms including ointments, creams, gels, lotions, sprays and wax sticks. The type of sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice. Creams are best for individuals with dry skin, but gels are preferable in hairy areas, such as the scalp or male chest. Sticks are good around the eyes. Creams typically yield a thicker application than lotions and are best for the face. There also are sunscreens made for specific purposes, such as sensitive skin and for use on babies. Ideally, sunscreens should be water-resistant, so they cannot be easily removed by sweating or swimming, and should have an SPF of 30 or higher that provides broad spectrum coverage against both UVA and UVB light. Ingredients to look for on the sunscreen label to ensure broad-spectrum UV coverage include:

Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)
Titanium Dioxide
Zinc Oxide

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Is sunscreen application all I need to do to protect myself from the sun?
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma. You can have fun in the sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer.

Here's how:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. "Broad-spectrum" provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD SEAL OF RECOGNITION® on products that meet these criteria.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don't seek the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist.  Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

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Is there a safe way to tan?
There is no safe way to tan. A tan is the skin's response to injury caused by UV exposure. Tanning occurs when ultraviolet rays penetrate the epidermis, the skin's outer layer causing the production of melanin as a response to the injury. Chronic exposure to ultraviolet light, both natural and artificial, results in a change in the skin's texture, causing wrinkling and age spots. Thus, tanning to improve appearance is ultimately self-defeating.

Every time you tan, you damage your skin and this damage accumulates over time. This accumulated damage, in addition to accelerating the aging process, also increases your risk for all types of skin cancer.
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Are tanning beds a safer way to tan?
In spite of claims that tanning beds offer "safe” tanning, indoor tanning equipment, which includes all artificial light sources such as beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, etc., emits UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun and in some cases may be stronger.

Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells. Also excessive exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning can lead to skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.

Many tanning salons are unregulated, allowing customers (especially those with fair skin that tans poorly) access to tanning beds without supervision or eye protection. The American Academy of Dermatology supports local and/or statewide indoor tanning legislation that bans minors from using tanning devices. In addition, this legislation usually requires that warning signs be prominently displayed in tanning salons and list the hazards of such exposure, among other possible regulatory provisions.

In September 2007, the Tanning Accountability and Notification Act, or TAN Act (FDA reform bill, HR 3580), became law. This law requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine whether the current labeling of indoor tanning beds provides sufficient information about the risks associated with indoor tanning and whether modifying the warning label required on tanning beds to read "Ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer” would more effectively communicate the risks of skin cancer.
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How do I treat a sunburn?
In case you forget to cover up and apply sunscreen, the resulting sunburn can be painful as well as dangerous. Remember that you may not immediately see the effects of overexposure to the sun. It may take up to 24 hours before the full damage is visible.

There are several types of burns and burn treatments. The two most common sunburns are first-degree burns and second-degree burns.

First-degree sunburns cause redness and will heal, possibly with some peeling, within a few days. These can be painful and are best treated with cool baths and moisturizers or over the-counter hydrocortisone creams.

Avoid the use of "-caine” products (such as benzocaine), which may cause sensitivity to a broad range of important chemicals. Anti-inflammatory oral medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may lessen the pain and discomfort associated with sunburn.

Second-degree sunburns blister and can be considered a medical emergency if a large area is affected. Do not break the blisters, as they are a natural protective mechanism to heal the affected area and rupturing them delays the healing process and invites potential infection. A layer of gauze may be used to cover the area until healed. When a burn is severe, accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help immediately.

Be sure to protect your skin from the sun while it heals and thereafter.

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Avoid the effects of sun exposure to the skin.

  • CANCER- The likelihood of acquiring all types of SKIN CANCER is increased by long-term exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet radiation. These cancers include Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
  • SUN SPOTS- A number of different types of lesions such as seborrheic keratosis (“sun spots” or “aging spots”), brown spots, actinic keratosis, small reddish spots, and other are all related to prolonged, unprotected sun exposure.
  • WRINKLES, LEATHERY SKIN- excess time in the sun also leads to early aging of the skin.
  • SUNBURN

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Coastal Dermatology & Cosmetic Center