Enjoying the bright, sunny days we’ve been having? We are, too. All of this Vitamin D is a beautiful thing, but bug bites and burns – not so much. Having a great summer doesn’t stop with mosquito and tick protection, sun safety is just as important.
St Louis dermatologist Dr. Mary Noël George has a few important facts you need to know about your sunscreen, and a warning on that two-for-one sunscreen and bug repellent that sounds like a much better idea than it really is.
Mosquito Squad: Do expiration dates on sunscreen bottles really matter? Why?
Dr. George: Expiration dates definitely matter. If the expiration date has passed, the sunscreen is no longer as effective; its active ingredients have broken down over time. If you use sunscreen as directed—liberally and generously, a bottle should not last from one year to the next.
Mosquito Squad: What do you mean by “liberally and generously?”
Dr. George: For sunscreen to be effective, you need to apply an entire ounce—think: a shot glass full—of the product to your body. And you should apply an entire tablespoon full to your face. That means that each bottle of sunscreen stashed in the back of your vanity should have been empty after only 6-8 applications.
Mosquito Squad: What do you know products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent? These are so convenient, but are they a good idea?
Dr. George: I recommend using separate products—not combo products, especially those containing DEET. Because application directions for sunscreen and repellent are different, they need to be applied separately. Apply sunscreen first then the repellent. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or bathing. To protect your skin from insects, one application of a repellent with DEET is enough. A little DEET goes a long way.
The ingredients in sunscreens can increase your skin’s absorption of DEET by up to three times, increasing its potency—another reason why the combo products are a bad idea.
In addition, products containing DEET should not be applied to young children’s skin, making combo products completely out of the question. This is one of the big reasons why I like Mosquito Squad of Greater St. Louis’ product—it isn’t applied to the skin and therefore not absorbed into our bodies. We get the benefits of the product with absolutely no risk to our skin or overall health. The Squad’s product is a win-win.
Doctor George also had this advice about beating the aging effects caused by sun damage, “Sunscreen is the number-one anti-aging, anti-wrinkle cream available, and wearing it is the single most important thing you can do to maintain youthful skin. And with sunscreen, you can protect yourself from skin cancers and therefore maintain your overall health. Second, ask your dermatologist about using a topical retinoid cream, like Retin-A, or an over-the-counter retinol. These creams gently exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells and encourage new, plump, youthful skin cells to surface. They also help fade dark spots caused by the sun.”
Now that you are armed with this excellent sun protection information, go forth and enjoy the outdoors. And, in honor of National Sun Safety Month, pass along these warnings to all of your outdoor-loving friends.
This summer, #fightthebite and fight the burn!