Are you applying sunblock correctly?

People should pick an SPF higher than 50 and make sure it’s water resistant, local dermatologist says

San Antonio – Women between 25-30 years old make up the majority of melanoma skin cancer cases in the U.S., according to board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Hughes, MD. That’s why she strongly encourages people to begin getting skin exams in their 20s.

She says there are plenty of sunblock options, but most importantly, people should pick an SPF higher than 50 and make sure it’s water resistant. People should apply sunscreen every two hours or every time they get out of the pool or water.

“Thirdly, if you are in an ocean environment, there are reef-safe sunscreens and then there are sunscreens that are not reef-safe. And that has to do with different chemical components in the sunscreens. Everything should be labeled to say, either ocean safe or reef safe,” she said.

It can be hard to get children to stand still for the sunblock. Hughes suggests people apply a cream-based sunscreen at home first.

“Put on that initial application before you even get them dressed. It’s easy, as they’re going to give you less of a hard time. You’re in a comfortable environment. They’re not hot yet. You’re not going to miss any areas that when the clothing might move and you get burned,” she said. Then it would be okay to spay them with sunblock when you arrive at the location.

There are mineral and chemical-based sunblock lotions. There’s some division over which to use and studies that make the decision harder. If there are concerns about chemicals, Hughes suggests people look for mineral-based products.

“You would stick with mineral sunscreens. A lot of it might say UV pure or pure, just in general. When you flip the ingredient list over, you’ll see that it’s going to have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Those are safe. Those are not endocrine disruptors. They are what we call physical blocks. So they don’t have chemical in them,” Hughes said.

Hughes urges people to go for lotion-type sunblocks because sprays are often applied incorrectly.

“They kind of mist and walk through like you would with perfume, and that’s maybe giving you SPF 1 or 2,” she said. She said there’s also clothing that’s made to protect people from the sun if they want extra protection.

She recommends sunblock brands Elta MD and Sun Bum.

For more information on skin cancer prevention, go to the American Cancer Society’s website.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Santiago Esparza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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