Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — How Do I Use Sunscreen?

This Q&A was adapted from my just-released-book, Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices Today for a Healthier, Happier You. It was adapted for the July issue of Today’s Christian Living. If you don’t have a subscription, I highly recommend it.

Sunscreen tips from the American Academy of Dermatology (  

  • Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients. If your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or see a doctor.
  • It takes at least 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn. I tell my patients to remember what I call the 20/20 Rule: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 20 or greater and apply it at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
  • Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
  • People who get sunburned usually haven’t used enough sunscreen, haven’t reapplied it after being in the sun, or have used an expired product. 

A study published in JAMA Dermatology found that fewer than half of the patients at a dermatology clinic knew the meaning of terms like “broad spectrum” and “SPF.” So the AAD has developed an information handout on understanding sunscreen lingo. You can find it at

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2019. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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