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Sunscreen and Then Some Sun (Contd...)

Last week I wrote on the basics of sunscreen usage on :

Here are some other facts that you might find interesting:

1. Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

While selecting a sunscreen, read the label and see if it mentions protection against UV B and UV A. Just because a product claims to be a sunscreen doesn’t necessarily mean it is providing broad spectrum protection. The older sunscreens provided only protection against UV B(and most commercial based sunscreens have only UV B protection). But with the advent of technology, there are broad spectrum sunscreens available that give protection to both UV A and B. So read the label!

2. How much quantity of the sunscreen is to be applied?

One ounce (that’s enough to fill a glass shot) is needed to cover the entire body! But that’s okay if we intended on hitting a beach. For daily wear, apply half a finger tip of sunscreen on each part of your face i.e., one on each cheek, forehead, nose, chin and neck. And but of course apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you leave your home.

3. How to enhance the effectiveness of the sunscreen?

By using protective clothing like a scarf or a bandana or even an umbrella. The UV rays of the sun are mechanically prevented from reaching the skin. Use of jackets, sun coats and full sleeved shirts or tops also work equally well. People using the motor bike to work could use cotton gloves to prevent tanning of the hands.

4. Can children use sunscreen?

This is regular question that a lot of Indian parents ask me in the clinic. Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that sunscreen use for infants less than 6 months of age is acceptable if no other method of sun protection is available. But, what needs to be understood here is that these studies have been done on light skinned races and we are a brown skinned race. Instead of blindly accepting this logic here is some food for thought:

Light skinned people have inherently less melanin (colour cells). Which means that their skin lacks the capacity to protect itself from the UV rays. The more the UV rays penetrate the skin, the more the damage they cause and that is precisely the reason that a huge number of light skinned people suffer from cancers of the skin. So the use of sunscreen from a younger age is justifiable in these races.

Vis-à-vis, Indians have enough melanin in the skin which makes their skin more resistant to UV damage. Cancers of the skin are practically unheard of in the Indian population. So, as a dermatologist catering to the Indian population, my advice to patients is to be practical and not blindly follow rules that apply to children of different races. Looking at statistics like : Is the child prone to sun burn (not tan) ? How long is the kid going to play in the sun, how many hours (total) does the child’s skin gets exposed to the sun? etc need to be taken into consideration. And you shouldn’t forget that the skin is the organ that helps produce the essential Vitamin D which is needed for growth. So, if you did bathe your child in sunscreen EVERDAY… are you really doing any good to the child? Think about it! Or better yet visit a dermatologist to get the right answers!

No matter what sunscreen , scarf or UV reflecting expensive umbrella you use... in a tropical country like India, where the sun shines bright all through the year, a little tan is always to be expected.

So use a sunscreen but enjoy the sun! A little tan hurt no one!

Wish you all a happy summer!

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