Researchers at the the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis set up an interesting experiment. They set up free sunscreen dispensers at the Minnesota State Fair. Then they sat back and watched 2,187 people use the dispensers during a 93-hour period. Picture a big state fair and only about 2,000 people choosing to put on free sunscreen.
Here’s what they found:
- One-third applied sunscreen to all of the exposed skin. Most only did their face and arms.
- Only 38 percent had on sun-protective clothing, hats or sunglasses.
- People were less likely to use the sunscreen during cloudy days, even though 80 percent of the sun’s rays get through.
- Women were more likely than men to use the sunscreen.
The study is in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology.
Dermatologist Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University, has these recommendations for choosing a sunscreen:
- Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. While no sunscreen can filter out all of the sun’s UVB rays, SPF 30 sunscreens block 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
- Look for the words “broad spectrum.” This means the sunscreen will protect against both UVA rays (which cause premature skin aging) and UVB rays (which cause sunburn). Both types of UV rays can lead to skin cancer.
- Look for the words “water resistant.” No sunscreen is completely waterproof, but water-resistant sunscreens can provide protection for wet or sweaty skin for 40 or 80 minutes, as indicated on the label. All sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- For sensitive skin, choose a sunscreen with the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Those with sensitive skin also should avoid sunscreens that contain fragrance, oils and para-aminobenzoic acid, also known as PABA.
“The best type of sunscreen is one you’ll use,” Dr. Rigel says in a press release about the study, “so find one you like and apply it to all exposed skin before heading outside.”