Submitted by Dr. Samantha Ritchie, Vantage Physicians
It’s summer here in Thurston County, and it’s time to put on the sunscreen. The FDA is in the process of changing how sunscreens are labeled, although this won’t actually take effect until December. Labels on sunscreens can be very confusing. Here are some helpful hints about how to pick a sunscreen, and how to use it:
• Sun damage and skin cancer are caused by both UVA and UVB radiation, but some sunscreens don’t protect against both. In the future, sunscreens will say “BROAD SPECTRUM” if they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
• No sunscreens are truly waterproof or “sweat proof.” The only thing they can claim is that they are water resistant. In the future, the label will say that they last for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating, depending on results of FDA testing.
• Most people don’t put on enough sunscreen. The recommendation is to use a shot glass full when covering all exposed areas. Most people only apply 25-50% of what they should. If used properly, sunscreen can cut the risk of melanoma significantly.
• All sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours, regardless of the SPF factor. In the future, the highest SPF factor allowed will be 50; since there is no evidence that an SPF over 50 provides any greater protection.
About the author
Dr. Samantha Ritchie is a board certified Family Physician who has lived in the Olympia area with her husband and daughter for over 10 years. She also earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She spent the next 20 years working between Olympia and McCleary. Dr. Ritchie has been honored by the Washington Rural Health Association, an organization that advocated for better rural health services, as its Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner for 2009. Dr. Ritchie also uses her skills on trips with a nonprofit group called Friends of Haiti, bringing medical care to villages so remote she and her colleagues have to hike to them. She and her husband enjoy sailing, rowing, hiking, and enticing their daughter to enjoy the great outdoors.