To your health: Sunscreen still needed even though the snow is now falling

By Alfred Casale - To Your Health | January 10th, 2017 6:00 am

I hope you and your family had a wonderful time this Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and/or Festivus! I think that about covers it.

Mary and I spent time on Cape Cod, in Chicago, and here at home, and despite the logistic challenge in keeping all those trips straight, had a terrific holiday.

Several colleagues and friends had ski holidays as part of their holidays. No broken bones, but lots of “goggle-eyes” from sun on their faces but not where the goggles covered. Since the weather has been so shifty, cold then warm, snow then melt, rain then freeze, glare has been everywhere, here in NEPA, too.

It’s made me realize that winter is no time to forget where your sunscreen is.

Picking out sunscreen is simply not an easy task. Just visit the sunscreen display at a pharmacy or convenience store and you’ll see why. The options seem endless. And as we talked about last summer, there’s no end to the advice online. Let’s review.

Broad spectrum, water resistant, sweat resistant, lotion, spray, organic and more are all options to know about. And that’s all on top of deciding which sun protection factor (SPF) is best.

Comparing all of the different types of sunscreen can be complicated. But, what matters most when all is said and done is how well it protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Consider these tips the next time you buy sunscreen.


Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 of higher that will prevent both sunburn (and tanning) both the telltale signs of skin injury.

Choose a sunscreen that protects against both types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. The lotions that protect against both are usually labeled as broad spectrum or specifically call out their A and B effectiveness.

UVB rays cause sunburn. And although UVA rays aren’t thought to contribute to sunburn, they do penetrate deeply into the skin, eventually causing wrinkles and signs of aging as well as increasing the risk of skin cancer.

The SPF level only explains how the sunscreen protects you from UVB rays.

There isn’t a similar measure for how good a sunscreen is at protecting your skin from UVA rays. Look at the lotion’s ingredients – if you see ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide, then that lotion should block UVA rays.


Although sunscreen sprays are convenient (and usually pretty expensive), you may be better off using a lotion.

Sprays, especially for children, can be too easy to breath in, which can irritate lungs and airways. In addition, some sprays are flammable, so you should avoid applying and wearing it near lots of sparks or flames.

Sunscreen sprays can make it difficult to tell if you applied enough; and not applying enough puts you at risk of getting burned.

If spray is the only option available, spray it on your hands and then rub it on, especially when it comes to faces.

Kid-friendly ingredients

Babies’ and children’s sensitive skin can easily become irritated by some of the chemicals in adult sunscreens.

Sunscreens specifically for children use ingredients that are less likely to irritate their skin. For children 6 months or older, choose a sunscreen for children with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Babies younger than 6 months old should be kept out of the sun completely. When going outside, make sure your baby is wearing a hat and dressed to cover their arms and legs- certainly not a problem for Kate with Rowan in the Chicago wind and cold this year!

Just as important as picking the right sunscreen is making sure it’s used properly.

Apply one ounce of sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. And reapply often, about every two hours. If you or your children have been sweating or rubbing your face with masks or goggles, reapply regardless of whether the lotion is water or sweat resistant.

I spent some time online and found a few “kid safe” products recommended by reputable sites and sent away for some for Rowan — and for me — I need to protect my boyish good looks, too.

Alfred Casale To Your Health Casale To Your Health

By Alfred Casale

To Your Health

Dr. Alfred Casale is chairman of surgery for the Geisinger Heart Institute, co-director of the Cardiovascular Service Line for the Geisinger Health System and Associate Chief Medical Officer of the Geisinger Health System and Chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]