How Much Sunscreen Should We Really Put On in Tropical Climates?

When using sunscreen, there is no such thing as “less is more.” One thing that makes dermatologists cringe is the common belief that applying a tiny amount of sunscreen is enough to protect the skin from UV rays. What if you are living in a tropical country where it is humid throughout the year? Does the recommended amount vary? Here are the proper ways to apply it:

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  1. Sunscreen for the body – the Food and Drug Administration designated in a testing protocol in 2007 that the amount of sunscreen to use is two milligrams per square centimeter of skin. They did not provide exact figures because things can vary depending on the size of a person’s body and the type of sunscreen used. For example, mineral sunscreen tends to quickly wipe off when you sweat, so it is a must that you put it back on immediately. FDA does not want to appear misleading, so they just indicated in the directions that it is required to apply it “generously” and “liberally.” There is no exact measurement according to FDA. When in doubt, just put on a thick coat until your exposed skin is covered. Reapply every two hours.

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  1. Sunscreen for face – Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine, recommends applying a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone. To get an even application, spread it out on your finger first rather than putting it directly on the face. What if you are using a spray? She advised covering the face until an even sheen is observed.

 

Consider the fact that the harmful UV rays do not only penetrate when you’re under the sun. They also pass through windows at home or office. Sunscreen will only work when applied to the skin at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Do not wait until your skin starts to burn because sunscreen will not stop the burning process. Aside from the amount of sunscreen, you should also keep in mind the sun protection factor (SPF).

According to Dr. Steven Q. Wang, director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, you should use an SPF not lower than 30 and not higher than 50.

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