With the sunshine here to stay in Northern Michigan, make sure you’re protected before heading outside. We chatted with Emily Hedley, a physician assistant at Great Lakes Plastic Surgery Center, and we learned a few surprising facts about summer skincare.

What are the dangers of the sun?
We are seeing an epidemic across the world in skin cancer. It’s the most common type of cancer. It doesn’t typically get talked about in the [news] because it’s much more common than lung cancer and other cancers. By using sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats, you can protect yourself from the sun.

When does sun damage occur?
The main time when sun damage can occur to the cells is prior to the age of 20. Eighty percent of our DNA damage occurs before the age of 20. But it’s really important for children and adults to protect themselves from the sun as 20 percent of damage still occurs after age 20. You should not put sunscreen on children under 6 months. It’s best to seek the shade and avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

What products do you recommend?
I really like the Blue Lizard line. They make a sensitive skin line and it’s non-irritating. They utilize zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which have been around longer than the sunscreens that use more chemical components. [Blue Lizard] is broad spectrum which means they protect from both UVB, which we have known for a long time can cause skin cancer, and UVA rays which can also cause skin cancer. Try to buy sunscreen that is above SPF 35 and waterproof. Another good product is CeraVe facial moisturizing lotion which contains components that help repair damage to the skin and also protects it.

Does sunscreen need to be reapplied during the day?
It’s recommended that you apply 30 minutes prior to going outside and then every 2 hours when you are out in the sun. More frequently if you are sweating or swimming.

Do kids really have to wait 30 minutes after sunscreen application before jumping in the water?
This is more for the chemical sunscreens because some of the components of them need to be activated in the skin and absorbed properly in order to provide adequate protection.

Some sunscreens may have harmful additives in them, what “ingredients” should people avoid?
That is a controversial subject. The jury is still out on that decision. For people who are concerned about those chemicals, I recommend the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide [of the Blue Lizard Line] because those are more natural and less irritating.

What kinds of clothes should I wear to protect my skin?
“They make UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) clothing which protects from the sun; it’s typically long sleeves and long pants. That’s good for babies as well.”

Do spray sunscreens work as well as regular sunscreens?
The problem with spray sunscreen is two-fold. One is it becomes quite difficult to apply it in an even layer because sometimes you can’t tell which part of the skin has been covered and which has not. Also, this has not been proven causative but some of the components of spray sunscreens, when inhaled, may affect lung inflammation. I always recommend cream sunscreens but if patients want to use spray than I always say hold your breath when you spray. On facial skin, it’s recommended that you spray it on your hands and rub it on as opposed to spraying it directly on your face.

Can I use the sunscreen I bought last year, or do I need to buy a new bottle?
There are expiration dates on sunscreen and it’s not recommended that you use a sunscreen that is outdated because some of the preservatives and different components may not provide adequate function. It’s recommended that you buy new sunscreen each year.

How much sunscreen is required for complete coverage?
One common misconception is the amount that needs to be applied. The average adult requires one ounce [of sunscreen] for the whole body which is about the size of a shot glass. It’s more than people think.

What should I use to treat my sunburn?
Prevention is the number one recommendation. If it does happen, it is permanent damage to your DNA that can never be undone. Even though the sunburn will fade away days later and turn into a tan, you increase your chances of cancer later on in life, as well as brown spots and wrinkles. You can use a cool compress; soak a washcloth in cool water and apply it to the skin. Mostly a sunburn needs time to heal. If it’s severe, like blisters, you should see your family doctor. Aloe vera can be calming, but you just have to wait for your skin to heal after you burn. 

Anything else should we be aware of this summer?
One unique piece of information that many people don’t realize is that the side windows in cars do not protect against UVA rays. It’s mandated that the windshield does, but the side windows mostly protect against UVB rays only. They make UVA shields that you can put on the windows so when kids are riding in the car the rays aren’t hitting them.

More Summer Tips:

Photo(s) by Taylor Brown