Monday, October 4, 2010

Some thoughts on sunscreen

The weather has finally offered a respite to us Floridians, and the temperature on my morning run today was a brisk I-don't-know-for-sure-but-something-under-70-degrees. As this weather (hopefully) continues, the need for things like sunscreen diminishes, but I wanted to write a little bit about some sun-protection products out there which are new to me, and you might be interested in trying the next time you are baking under the burny-fireball in the sky (ie: the sun).

The majority of sunscreen comes in an opaque bottle and is a white goo you must smear on yourself wherever you don't want to be burned. As a doctor and having seen my fair share of people with skin cancer, I must remind everyone of the importance of using sunscreen even if this goopy stuff is all you can get a hold of. Now, a few years ago, I started using a clear, alcohol based sunscreen. My favorite brand is BullFrog because the stuff is nearly impossible to sweat off. For that matter, it can be tough to get off with soap in the shower. I like the alcohol-base because it applies more quickly and easily and leaves less icky residue on your hands. Several other companies make alcohol-based products and I think they are worth a try.

Now, the post today is about the newest products I've started using. I had them for my runs on the beach this past weekend and they worked great. The product is an aerosol base so instead of rubbing it on, it sprays on, basically how you would use bug repellent like Off! or Cutter. This has several advantages, first is easy and even coverage. Second is that, in a pinch, you can even spray your own back. Third, nothing is left on your hands when you're done.

This spray stuff is a little more expensive than the usual, but in exploring that, I'd like to make a quick analogy to medicine: the distinction between 'use' and 'perfect use'. While the use of sunscreen, with regular reapplication, and using additional protection like shirts and hats is accepted as a way to avoid sunburn and cancer. Cancer rates are going up, despite higher sales of sunscreen. Why? It may be a result of the 'regular use' of sunscreen, which is where people use sunscreen, but not properly. They don't reapply, stay out too long, and think that if they've applied it once at 8AM, they're good through to 6PM without a shirt or anything else. So, if this product helps people use sunscreen properly, I think it is well worth the additional cost.

So, to summarize my experience with these sprays, I used two products, one from Coppertone and one from Banana Boat. I liked the Coppertone better because I found that the Banana Boat product went on a little too thick and I ended up having to smear it about to rub it in, defeating the purpose, in my mind, of having a spray on product.

Give them a try and remember to be safe!

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