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From picnics and barbeques to outdoor festivals and walks in the park, warmer weather brings fun in the sun. Before you head outdoors, you know it's important to protect your skin. But are you sure you're getting the most from your sunscreen?
It may seem like a no-brainer: Pick a sunscreen — any sunscreen — and put it on. But there's actually more to it than that. Read on to learn about the factors that can influence the quality and effectiveness of this summer safety staple.
Not all sunscreens are created equal.
When choosing a sunscreen, consider the following:
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
SPF rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The number indicates how long you could theoretically stay in the sun without burning. For example: If it usually takes 10 minutes for you to burn, SPF 15 will multiply that timeframe by 15, allowing you to go 2.5 hours before burning.1 The American Academy of Dermatology (ADA) recommends SPF 30 or higher.2
- Broad Spectrum
UVB rays aren't the only concern associated with sun exposure. A good sunscreen will also protect you from ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. There is no rating system to indicate a product's ability to block UVA rays, so look for the term "Broad Spectrum" or for ingredients such as ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide.1
- Water Resistance
If you'll be swimming, exercising or perspiring, it's important to choose a sunscreen that won't simply wash away. The label should indicate how long the SPF can remain effective in wet conditions (typically 40 or 80 minutes). No sunscreen can claim to be completely waterproof, so you'll need to reapply after the elapsed amount of time.
When it comes to application, technique counts.
The quality of your sunscreen means very little if it isn't applied correctly. Here are a few pointers:
- Even application over all areas of exposed skin can help ensure total protection. This includes heard-to-reach or often overlooked spots like the back of your neck, tips of your ears, tops of your feet and middle of your back.
- The ADA states that, on average, one ounce of sunscreen is needed to cover all areas of exposed skin.2
- For best results, sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied at least every two hours — regardless of SPF or water-resistant level.
- Because sunscreen can lose its potency over time, using a product past its expiration date isn't recommended.
Dealing with sun damage
Cancer is certainly the most serious danger associated with unprotected sun exposure, but it isn't the only one. The sun's harsh rays can cause dramatic changes in the appearance of your skin, including:
- Uneven pigmentation in the form of freckles and age spots
- Sallowness (a yellow discoloration of the skin)
- A breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin
Fortunately, in many cases it's possible to reduce or even reverse the signs of sun damage. Special skin treatments, chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, BOTOX® Cosmetic, facial fillers, facelifts and other cosmetic procedures are all options depending on the severity of the situation.
Click here to find a cosmetic provider near you who accepts CareCredit.
All statements and opinions in "Skin Cancer Awareness Month" are the sole opinions of the Customer Communications Group and not those of CareCredit. The content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical provider with respect to any professional advice presented. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms.
BOTOX Cosmetic is registered trademarks of Allergan, Inc. Restylane is a registered trademarks of Valeant Pharmaceutical International