Sunscreen 101 for Older Adults

Sunscreen--Sized 06/29/2015

As we age, our skin becomes dryer and more fragile. It can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from loss of collagen product to side effects of medication. The result is older adult’s skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.

As we head in to summer, we thought it would be a good time to share answers to some of the most common questions people have about sun protection and sunscreen.

Q: What type of sunscreen is better a stick, spray or cream?

A: Consumer Reports asked that very question in research they did. They found that no one type of sunscreen could be considered better than another. So think about what area of the body you are trying to protect and which type of sunscreen is easiest to apply there.  You might find a stick is the best choice to use on your ears and the back of your knees and a spray or cream is best for larger areas of the body. Just remember to check the SPF on each product to make certain you are getting equal protection.

Q: What is SPF?

A: Sun protection factor, known as SPF is a rating system used to evaluate how effective the product is at preventing sunburn. So if your senior loved one can typically be in the sun for about 5 minutes before they begin to experience sunburn, an SPF of 15 will allow them to be outdoors 15 times longer or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes).

Q: How much sunscreen should sunscreen should I apply and how often?

A: This is an area that people don’t often get right. The general rule is one ounce of sunscreen every 2 hours that you are outdoors.  If you are running or swimming or otherwise working up a sweat, you will need to re-apply it even more frequently. That likely means you will use an entire bottle of sunscreen for each full day you spend outside.

Q: What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

A: Both types of the sun’s rays can cause damage to your skin, but UVB rays are considered to be the most harmful. UVB rays are the ones that cause your skin to burn. UVA rays are the most common and penetrate the skin more deeply. Both UVA and UVB rays are usually strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Prevention Center has more resources and information on how to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays. Visit them to learn more.