Q: What does the “SPF” number on sunscreens mean?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor.” It is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to protect the skin against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which can cause sunburns and cancer. SPF does not measure protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. So to make sure you’re fully protected, choose a UVA/UVB or “broad spectrum” sunscreen since it protects both UVA and UVB rays.
Q: What are the effects of UVA and UVB rays?
UVA rays can cause leathery skin, sun spots and premature aging (photoaging), while UVB can cause physical sunburns and cancer.
Q: What SPF is appropriate for most patients?
When outdoors, SPF 30 or 50 is appropriate since it can block 97–98 percent of UVB rays. If indoors, SPF 15 is sufficient, as it blocks 93 percent of UVB rays.
Q: Do you need sunscreen on cloudy days?
Yes — it’s still very important to wear sunscreen on overcast days. That’s because up to 80 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays can be absorbed by your skin even on cloudy days.
Q: How often should sunscreen be reapplied?
Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going out in the sun and then reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Q: What is photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity is an increase in the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which can be caused by some medications.
Q: How can you find out if your medication causes photosensitivity?
Check your prescription label to see if there is a warning about avoiding direct and/or artificial sunlight. You can also ask your AllianceRx Walgreens Prime pharmacist if you have any questions regarding photosensitivity.
Q: How can you reduce the symptoms of photosensitivity?
To decrease the symptoms of photosensitivity, you should always use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more when going outside. Since no sunscreen completely blocks UV rays, you should wear a protective layering of clothes — including a hat, sunglasses or umbrella — to protect your eyes, face and skin. Additionally, limiting the time spent outdoors and exposed to the sun can further decrease the risk, especially during the peak times of sun exposure, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Q: What should you do if you get a sunburn?
You can treat minor sunburns with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, aloe vera gel, lidocaine gel or antihistamines. Soothe the sunburn with a cool compress and drink plenty of fluids to help with hydration. If you have a sunburn with blisters covering a large portion of your body — or symptoms such as a skin infection, high fever, chills, dizziness, headache or severe pain — please contact your doctor.
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