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The Fountain of Youth: Prevent Skin Cancer and Aging with Sunscreen

If you asked me what the best anti-aging product would be, it would be SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN! Sunscreen will prevent the effects of the sun that cause the visible signs of skin aging (dark spots, wrinkles, textural changes) AND prevent the development of skin cancer. Let’s talk about it.

The Science

The sun releases harmful UV rays, including UVA radiation, which is involved in aging, and UVB radiation, which is involved in skin cancer. UV radiating can affect any skin type, any ethnicity, and any age. Sunscreen can protect you from the harmful effects of the sun, IF you use it correctly.

What is the Best Sunscreen

The best sunscreen is the ONE YOU USE. The important part of choosing a sunscreen is the SPF number on the bottle. The other important part of sun protection is making sure that your sunscreen is broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB radiation).

Let’s talk about SPF.

Dermatologists usually recommend an SPF of at least 30. This blocks 96.7% of UV rays. SPF 50 blocks 98%. No sunscreen blocks 100% of sunrays. For clinical significance, after SPF 50, the additional benefits are marginal. Sunscreen should be reapplied as directed on the bottle (usually every two hours). This may change with swimming or sweating (at which time you should consider water resistant sunscreen).

So what is the best sunscreen? Once you have a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF of 50, the best sunscreen is THE ONE YOU USE. Sunscreen is only effective if you use it, so pick one that you like for your skin needs.

Sunscreen in Clothing

If you are out in the sun regularly (hobbies, job), invest in UPF clothing (like SPF but for clothes). They can be found online ( is one of many), as well as your local sport store. I really like this option because they are “fool proof” and they have some very nice styles.

Regardless of whether you have “UPF” clothing, any protective clothing will help. Long sleeved shirts, pants, and wide brimmed hats (Protect your ears! Some skin cancers are especially aggressive on the ears).

When Should You Use Sunscreen

Everyday. Make sunscreen part of your routine. Before your moisturizer and makeup, every morning, wear your sunscreen. Even if it is cloudy outside, your skin can still receive 80% of the UV radiation. UV rays can penetrate the car window!

Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. The SPF number on the product is based on placing 2 mg of sunscreen per cm2. What does that mean? In order to use sunscreen correctly and achieve the SPF on the bottle, you need one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to cover the average exposed areas of the body.

Use Caution

Spray sunscreen. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of accidental inhalation of spray sunscreens. If you use spray sunscreen, spray on your hands and then rub the areas of your body that you want to cover.

Be careful of sunscreen with insect repellants. Sunscreen should be applied generously, while insect repellant should be used sparingly and much less frequently than sunscreen.

Be careful of SPF in makeup. Most people do not apply the needed amount of make up (2 mg/cm2) to actually get the SPF on the bottle. Also, most make up is SPF 15 (remember dermatologist recommend of at least SPF 30. It is great that you have SPF in your makeup but wear a dedicated sunscreen for full protection.

Baby and Toddlers

The best way to protect babies and toddlers is to physically protect them from the sun with clothing and shade. Sunscreen is approved for children older than six months. Sunscreens used in children, in my opinion, should use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.


Check out my sunscreen recommendation post!

Dermatology Tips (Pearls)

  1. Wear SPF of at least 30. After SPF 50, the benefits are statistically marginal.

  2. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors.

  3. Higher SPF does not mean you can spend additional time in the sun!

  4. If you are out in the sun regularly (hobbies, job), invest in UPF clothing (like SPF but for clothes). They can be found online, as well as your local sport store. I really like this option because they are “fool proof” and they have some very nice styles.

  5. Avoid the sun if possible. Seek shade, especially when the sunrays are the strongest (usually 10 am to 2 pm). So run in the early morning or evening. Protect yourself.

  6. Be aware of your surroundings. Water, snow, and sand (think: the fun places!) can reflect the sun and increase your chance of sunburns

  7. There is NO safe way to tan. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the WHO have declared UV radiation from the sun as well as from tanning beds and sun lamps a known cancer-causing substance (carcinogen)

  8. Read the bottle for directions for application. Most sunscreens retain their strength for 3 years from manufacturing date so check the expiration date.

Wear your sunscreen. If you notice any skin lesions changing, itching, or bleeding, see your dermatologist! Skin cancer is very treatment if you catch it early.

Happy reading!

Dr. Z

Remember, this blog just provides general information and is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. Full Disclaimer.


Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition (Ultraviolet Radiation Related Exposures); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program

American Academy of Dermatology, Sunscreen FAQs

American Academy of Dermatology, Vitamin D

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