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Sunscreens are used to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. They help to prevent sunburn and premature aging (e.g., wrinkles, leathery skin). Sunscreens also help to decrease the risk of skin cancer and also of sunburn-like skin reactions (sun sensitivity) caused by some medications (e.g., tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, phenothiazines such as chlorpromazine).
The active ingredients in sunscreens work either by absorbing the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of the skin, or by reflecting the radiation.
Wearing sunscreen does not mean that you can stay out longer in the sun. Sunscreens cannot protect against all of the sun's radiation.
There are various types of sunscreens available in many forms (e.g., cream, lotion, gel, stick, spray, lip balm). See the Notes section for information about selecting a sunscreen.
Sunscreens are for use on the skin only. Follow all directions on the product package. If you are uncertain about any of the information, consult your doctor or pharmacist.
Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin 30 minutes before sun exposure. As a general guide, use 1 ounce (30 grams) to cover your entire body. Reapply the sunscreen after swimming or sweating or drying off with a towel or if it has rubbed off. If you are outside for long periods, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. If you are using the lip balm form, apply to the lip area only.
The spray form is flammable. If using the spray, avoid smoking when applying this medication and do not use or store it near heat or open flame.
When applying sunscreen to the face, be careful to avoid contact with the eyes. If the sunscreen gets in your eyes, rinse thoroughly with water.
Use cautiously or avoid use on irritated skin.
Do not use sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months unless the doctor directs you to do so. It is best for infants to stay out of the sun and wear protective clothing (e.g., hats, long sleeves/pants) when outdoors.
If you develop a serious sunburn, or if you think you may have a serious medical problem, seek immediate medical attention.
Some sunscreen products (e.g., those containing aminobenzoic acid or para-aminobenzoic acid/PABA) may stain clothing.
Some ingredients of sunscreens can cause the skin to become more sensitive. If a sunscreen causes redness or irritation, wash it off and stop using it. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about using another sunscreen product with different ingredients.
If your doctor has directed you to use this medication, remember that he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
Before using a sunscreen, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to any of its ingredients (e.g., aminobenzoic acid/PABA); or to some types of anesthetic drugs (e.g., benzocaine, tetracaine); or to sulfa drugs; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
Store at room temperature away from heat and light. Refer to the storage information printed on the package. Do not use a product after the expiration date on the container. If there is no expiration date, it is recommended that you replace sunscreens every year because over time they may lose the ability to protect you from the sun. If you have any questions about storage, ask your pharmacist. Keep all drug products away from children and pets.
Do not flush medications down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist or local waste disposal company for more details about how to safely discard your product.
If you are using this product under your doctor's direction, your doctor or pharmacist may already be aware of possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for them. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Keep a list of all your medications with you, and share the list with your doctor and pharmacist.
This medicine may be harmful if swallowed. If someone has overdosed and has serious symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call 911. Otherwise, call a poison control center right away. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.
Apply sunscreens generously and often when outdoors.
The sun produces two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA radiation causes skin damage, premature aging, and skin reactions to medications, soaps, cosmetics, and other chemicals. UVB radiation causes sunburn. Both UVA and UVB radiation increase your risk of skin cancer. Most sunscreens protect against UVB radiation, but you should use a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection (broad-spectrum coverage). Products that protect against UVA include ingredients such as avobenzone, octocrylene, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and benzophenones such as oxybenzone. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about selecting a product.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating that tells how much protection a product provides against sunburn. The higher the number, the greater the protection. An SPF of at least 15 is recommended. Products with SPF 30 provide high protection against sunburn. The FDA states that products with SPF above 30 provide a benefit that is not much greater than SPF 30 products.
Water-resistant products provide protection for up to 40 minutes of water activity or sweating. Very water-resistant products protect for up to 80 minutes. Reapply sunscreen as often as necessary.
Remember that water, sand, and snow reflect the sun. You should protect yourself with sunscreen when in these surroundings. Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days because the sun's radiation is still present. In addition to sunscreen, wear protective clothing (e.g., hat, long sleeves/pants, sunglasses) when outdoors, and stay in the shade when possible. Avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially between 10 AM to 4 PM when the sun's radiation is strongest.