Sunscreen—Lotion or Spray?


As a family nurse practitioner, at Fairview’s clinic in North BranchKatie Marvin, NP works with patients of all ages and has a special interest in preventive medicine, as well as acute and chronic disease management. 

With spring break approaching and summer around the corner, Katie shared a few reminders on how to best protect yourself and family from harmful sun rays and addresses the popular question right now of whether you should use or avoid spray sunscreens.  

Q: Why is sun protection in the summer months so important?

Sun protection is very important in the summer, and all year long, because excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can damage your skin and eyes. Sun can cause wrinkles in your skin, skin cancer, and damage your eyes by causing cataracts.

Q: What are some options for sun protection?

You should wear sunscreen year round. When spending a lot of time outside, wear a wide brim hat, stay in the shade as much as possible, wear clothing that covers your skin and wear sunglasses.  Also, if you can, avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Q: What level of SPF sunscreen would you recommend to use for protection? Is there much difference between levels?

I tell my patients and own family they should use a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Although there is not a huge difference after 30 SPF, the greater the SPF, the higher the sun protection. The higher the number SPF, the better at protecting you against the sun’s damaging rays. It’s important to make sure the brand you choose offers broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB light. 

Q: Do spray sunscreens provide the same level of protection as lotions?

Sunscreen sprays are OK as long as you make sure you apply evenly on your skin and cover all surfaces. (Don’t forget your ears, scalp and lips—these body parts are often forgotten!) The most important thing is to find an effective sunscreen that you like and will use.

Q: Sunburns are inevitable. What’s the best way to treat one?

To treat a mild sunburn, you can take pain relieving medications, use cool compresses and use lotions (usually containing aloe) for treating sunburn. You should see a doctor if you or a loved one has severe blistering, a fever, chills or confusion.


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