Sunscreen baby Corvallis Family Medicine

As family doctors we see problem-based visits often mirror the seasons. In the Willamette Valley nearly all of us are eager to spend more time outside during the beautiful summer days. As we roll past summer solstice we often find the number of daylight hours tempting us to marginalize the effect this can have on our skin as we recreate, garden, exercise, or enjoy various pastimes outside.

Peak ultraviolet (UV) exposures tend to be between 10 am and 3 pm, even on cloudy days. Skin protection can be achieved with several approaches. First and foremost, consider protection with directly blocking rays using UV-protective clothing, hats, and finding areas which are partially shaded and filter some of the UV penetration. Many clothing lines directly market the amount of UV protection an item offers, but some can be cost prohibitive. Consumer reports recently reviewed and testing clothing and found that a $13 Hanes T-Shirt offered nearly 70% of the protection of some of the top UV-protective gear on the market. So if all else fails, throw the t-shirt on your toddler, teenager, or yourself and even consider longer sleeves and wide-brimmed hats if you want to be aggressive. Specific attention should be taken to protect newborns and children under 2 years of age whose skin may be extremely sensitive to sun. Remember, severe sunburns early in life can raise your future risk of melanoma.

“The Sun will rise and set regardless. What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us. Journey wisely.”
― Alexandra Elle

Sunscreen products vary widely, but most offer significant protection and are far better than nothing. It is important to find a product which offers at least SPF 30 or higher, and many go as high as 70. Science points to the importance of blocking UVA and UVB rays, so be sure to check the product is a broad spectrum blocking agent. Frequent re-application, especially important when recreating in the water, is necessary to maximize the protective benefits of sunscreen. A product that blocks UVB rays may only prevent you from getting a sunburn, but does not block UVA rays, which penetrate to the deeper layers of skin, increase damage to your connective tissue, and raise your risk of melanoma.

Natural sunscreen products which are mineral-based and contain only zinc oxide have been shown to be quite inferior in their protective properties, but still outperform nothing at all.

Sunburns which cause blistering warrant evaluation by a physician. A more typical sunburn, which results in redness and local skin discomfort, can be managed comfortably at home with aggressive hydration of the skin with a non-fragranced skin lotion to promote hydration and minimize skin sloughing and flaking as your skin recovers from the burn. Products which contain Aloe gel or Aloe Vera can have a natural analgesic effect on the skin and may also offer some hydrating benefits. For more severe symptoms, use of oral Benadryl can offer symptom relief and often helps one sleep better at night.

Enjoy your summer and take care of your skin!

Annual skin exams are encouraged for individuals of all ages and are available at Corvallis Family Medicine. 

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