Top 5 things pharmacists should know about sun care


sunscreen skin sunburn

Summer is approaching, so why not brush up on your sun care knowledge so you can share skin protection tips with your patients?

Our summers are synonymous with scorching heat and outdoor play, with Aussies heading to beaches and parks in droves during the holiday season.

Dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour, who is a key spokesperson for Cetaphil Sun products this summer season, spoke with AJP about the top pieces of advice that pharmacists can pass onto consumers about sun care.

Here’s what she said pharmacists should advise:

1) Sun protection should be part of our daily routine in Australia.

This includes the daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreens, covering up with appropriate clothing, sunglasses and hats, and seeking shade in the middle of the day.

“So many of my patients tell me ‘…but, I don’t go out in the sun’,” says Dr Armour.

“In Australia, with our wonderful climate, we all experience a lot of incidental sun exposure that we may not be aware of.

“Nipping out for a quick coffee, hanging out the washing, and grabbing a quick bite of lunch can all contribute to significant sun exposure, and we need to be protected.,” she says.

“Also, if you do a lot of driving, you’re not protected adequately by window glass. Ultraviolet is a light that still penetrates through window glass.”

Dr Armour says all Australians should wear a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB blocking sunscreen on sun-exposed sites daily in spring and summer, and in the cooler months if they’re outside for prolonged periods.

“Outside temperature and the amount of cloud cover is not an accurate indicator of how much ultraviolet radiation is reaching our skin and damaging it,” she says.

2) In order for your sunscreen to perform up to the SPF listed on the packaging, it needs to be applied properly.

This means at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure (to allow the sunscreen to be absorbed and assimilate into the superficial layers of the skin).

The recommended amount of sunscreen is one teaspoon per body part (i.e. face and neck/each limb/front of trunk/back of trunk etc). Sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours, and post swimming or exercise that leads to heavy sweating.

3) Take the time to find a sunscreen that you like, so that you wear it daily and use it effectively.

AJP asked Dr Armour what special skin and sun care needs people with sensitive skin have, especially during the hot summer months.

She responded:

4) Individuals with sensitive skin require careful sun protection during the hot summer months.

“Covering up adequately is obviously the best protection. In terms of sunscreens, for those with sensitive skin, products based around zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a good choice as they are chemically inert and very unlikely to cause irritation or allergy.

“Other things to look for in sunscreens in this group include sunscreens with no fragrance, which do list added moisturisers/hydrating ingredients which may support the skin barrier, and avoid irritation,” explains Dr Armour.

“Such ingredients include panthenol (Vitamin B5), niacinamide (Vitamin B3), glycerine, and aloe vera. Avoiding preservatives known to have a significant risk of causing contact allergy such as PABAs and methylisothiazolinone is also important.”

She reminds pharmacists that a rash due to sunscreen may be caused by simple irritation as well as allergy.

“The culprit ingredients are more commonly fragrance and preservatives, than the active sunscreen ingredients. But, all of these components of sunscreens may play a part in skin irritation.”

In summer, those with sensitive skin should be mindful to moisturise at least daily after the shower, and use a soap-free wash (just as would be recommended over the rest of the year), she adds.

And with so much choice, how can people choose the right sunscreen for them? This leads Dr Armour to her fifth piece of advice:

5) All Australians should use of broad-spectrum UVA and UVB blocking sunscreen of at least SPF 30+.

“It’s important that you like the look and feel of a sunscreen, or you won’t use it appropriately,” says Dr Armour.

“Those with dry and sensitive skin, should look for more cream-based sunscreens or those with added emollients. Zinc oxide in particular is useful in this group. As above, the addition of soothing ingredients is helpful.

“Those with oily, acne-prone skin may prefer ‘oil-free’ sunscreens, or those with a light formulation.  There are plenty of options on the market that are light lotions.”

For use on the trunk in people that have a lot of body hair, gels and sprays can be used.  However, Dr Armour advises caution in applying these formulations as it can be hard to obtain adequate coverage for the SPF to be met.  These people could also use the products for oily skin types quite easily.

If a customer does a lot of water-sports or outdoor sport, they should look for a water-resistant sunscreen so that they don’t sweat off their protection.  And they should be advised to re-apply after swimming or vigorous sweating.

Cetaphil has released the highest UV SPF products for sensitive skin: Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ UltraLight Lotion and Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Kids Liposomal Lotion.

The Cetaphil Sun range is water resistant for 4 hours and dermatologically tested for sensitive skin.

Both products are available in pharmacies nationwide and has a RRP of $17.50 and $17.50 respectively.

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