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    Sunscreen safety and efficacy


    Dr. Norman Levine: Here’s a provocative question for you. Should everybody be wearing sunscreen? If you live in Northern Minnesota, do you need to be wearing sunscreen?

    Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: It always pays to protect yourself, but you have to use common sense. If it is a December day in Minnesota and it’s cloudy, you don’t need to use sunscreen. The amount of UV that you are getting is so little that it does not make any sense. If it’s a June day in Southern Arizona, of course you want to protect yourself, because the sun’s intensity would be remarkably strong there.

    Again, if it’s an area where you are not going to be outdoors very much and it’s a cold time of year, then you don’t need to put it on every day.

    On the other hand, do daily products such as moisturizers that have some sunscreen component to them help those who use them regularly? Probably, because it’s not just the UVB that’s protective in sunscreen, which is much more variable by latitude and by time of year, but UVA, of which, there is certainly more in the summer, and more in the South, but the variance is not as great. If you can protect yourself from that in the long run, that pays dividends too.

    Dr. Norman Levine: Do people of color need to wear sunscreen?

    Dr. Darrell S. Rigel: Anybody can get skin cancer, as you know. Certainly the fairer you are, the more easily you sunburn, the more poorly you tan, and the greater your risk in general, but everybody can get skin cancer.

    In terms of aging, people of color have natural protection and a better protection from UV damage, but they still can age. If you look at anybody who regularly protects himself from UV damage, they tend to age much better. So the answer is, if it makes sense for you, I don’t think you need as high an intensity of a sunscreen if you are a darker skinned individual, but it does pay off in the long run to use it.

    NEXT: Proposed new regulations for sunscreen manufacturers

    Norman Levine, M.D.
    Norman Levine, M.D., is a private practitioner in Tucson, Ariz. He also is a member of the Dermatology Times Editorial Advisory board ...


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