Sarah Phinney has been showing you parks and trails across the Tampa Bay region since July through her #WalkingClub series. Now, she's getting frequently asked questions in the Walking Club Facebook group answered.
Sarah is taking your burning questions about sun protection to an expert. She sat down with Dr. James Grichnik, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery at the University of South Florida, to get answers.
When should I apply sunscreen?
Grichnik recommends applying sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go on a walk.
He suggests wearing sunscreen any time you'll be exposed to the Florida sun, but he says the time of day makes a huge difference.
“If you’re out at dawn or dusk, the amount of ultraviolet rays are markedly decreased, but during the noonday sun, they’re markedly higher,” he said. “So if you’re going out at the beginning of the day or the end of the day, it’s a little less important, but still recommended. In the middle of the day, absolutely.”
What should I look for in sunscreen?
Instead of paying attention to the brand, Grichnik suggests looking at the ingredients. He prefers products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
“They tend to be more whitening and that’s because they’re reflecting the light away,” he said.
Grichnik recommends checking out the Environmental Working Group’s guide to sunscreens.
“That’s a great resource if you want to look at your particular sunscreen, exactly what’s in it and how safe different things are," he said.
He also says we should opt for lotion or creams instead of sprays.
“One of the problems with the sprays is that you inhale them and you really don’t need the sunscreen in your lungs, so it’s probably best to avoid the sprays,” said Grichnik.
As far as SPF, Grichnik suggests 30 or better.
“Fifteen is probably okay, but one of the problems is that people spread sunscreens too thin,” he said. “So they can take a 15 and spread it to a four or five, but it’s a lot harder to spread a 30 that thin.”
He recommends reapplying every one to two hours, depending on your activity and how much you’re sweating.
How can I avoid getting sunscreen in my eyes?
In this case, Grichnik says he prefers wax sticks, often advertised for children or babies.
“If they’re safe for babies, they’re probably safe for you too,” he said. “They’re often based on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and it’s a stick.”
Because it’s wax, he says it’s less likely to drip into your eyes.
Are my clothes protecting me from the sun?
It depends on what you’re wearing!
Grichnik says there is an easy way to tell if your clothes are protecting you from the sun: hold it up to the light.
“If you hold it up to light and light is getting through it, light is getting through," he said. “If you hold it up and nothing is getting through, it’s a very effective sunblock.”
If light is getting through, consider wearing sunscreen under your clothing. If light is not getting through, Grichnik says to pass on applying sunscreen to that covered area.
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