Sunscreen, Bug Spray: Here's What You Need to Know

With summer arriving, it’s time to break out the tank tops, sandals and especially the sun block. From applying sunscreen to keeping bugs at bay, an expert at Baylor College of Medicine explains all you need to know about ways to protect your skin this summer.

“There are several reasons to protect the skin from the sun, but the main reason we urge people to protect their skin is because it decreases the risk of developing skin cancer,” said Dr. Rajani Katta, clinical assistant professor of medicine at Baylor.

Katta reminds about the importance of using sunscreen, and using it the right way.

 “Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of at least 30. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a good amount of time, we typically tell people to reapply sunscreen every two hours. If you are swimming or sweating a lot, you may even have to reapply it more frequently.”

While sunscreen is an important aspect in protecting the skin, other sun protective behaviors also are important, Katta said. “Sunscreen is not a magic shield. If you are out in the middle of the day in the hot blazing sun, it’s not going to provide you with 100 percent protection, and it definitely won’t protect you for a long period of time. Try and seek shade whenever you can, and you really want to be careful about being out in the sun between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Katta said.

Another good practice is wearing protective gear such as clothing and hats. Katta recommends wearing wide brimmed hats over baseball caps because they offer more protection, especially to the ears.

When spending time outdoors, especially in areas with insects such as mosquitos that may carry infectious diseases, it is recommended to not only protect the skin from the sun but also to protect the skin from possible insect bites. While many combination products exist and advertise that they can help keep both the sun and bugs from the skin, Katta said those combination products don’t always work as well.

“There has been research that suggests that when you put sunscreen and certain insect repellent ingredients together, it reduces the effectiveness of the sunscreen. Because of that I tend to not recommend combination products,” she said.

If you plan on using both bug spray and sunscreen at the same time it is generally recommended to apply the sunscreen first and then the bug spray.

“While we don’t have definitive recommendations, I generally advise letting the sunscreen settle for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer, and then applying the insect repellent. However, if you’re going hiking or know that you’ll be exposed to insects, I actually think protective clothing is a better option. You’ll still need to protect exposed skin areas, but with the clothing, you’re protecting yourself from sun exposure and insects at the same time,” she said.

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