Summer is upon us! Wooohooo!!!!!
Depending on where you live and vacation, SUN may be in the forecast.
Recently, the weather gods had decided to part the summer fog here in SF and bless us with some gorgeous, sunny weather. On one of these particularly beautiful days, I lathered up with some leftover sunscreen from last summer, threw on my swim suit, and indulged in a little Vitamin D therapy in my backyard. About an hour later, I came inside to realize that I may have over done it. My chest, shoulders, and arms were looking a little pink. I immediately jumped into a cool shower to “stop the burning” (not sure where I learned this, but it’s seemed to work in the past) and applied some aloe. BUT, to my dismay, the damage was already done.
Later that evening, I started to notice my skin was feeling increasingly warm AND some tiny red bumps had begun to form. I had suffered from a heat rash a few summers back, and I was pretty sure I was a victim once more. After lathering up with some over-the-counter hydrocortisone creme, I called it a night and headed for bed.
The next morning, I was awoken by an incredibly itchy sensation on my arms. I switched on the bedroom light to discover my chest, shoulders, and arms were COVERED with a red, bumpy rash that itched more than anything I had ever felt before. It was MISERABLE! I felt like I was 6 years only with the chicken pox again. I couldn’t stop itching!! To subside the itch and rash, I tried EVERYTHING – baking soda baths, oatmeal baths, aloe, lotion, more hydrocortisone creme, Benedryl allergy meds. Nothing seemed to help. Finally, I was able to get an appointment with my dermatologist, Dr. Alice Do from Lakeside Dermatology. Two prescription strength creams, 1 prescription antihistamine, and a shot of Pretnezone in the rear later, relief was on the way.
Dr. Do diagnosed me with suffering from an allergic reaction to the SUNSCREEN I had applied – the very same sunscreen I had used the summer before with no reaction! My reaction to the sunscreen and the intense UV sun exposure created what she referred to as “the perfect storm” for a Photo Allergy. She went on to explain that although I may not have had an allergy to this particular brand of sunscreen I used the summer before, most sunscreens only have a shelf life of about 1 YEAR!
Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. 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. -CDC Website
I was absolutely SHOCKED!!! I had totally missed the memo on sunscreens having expiration dates. Apparently my sensitive skin had a negative reaction to the expired chemicals in the screen. Although my reaction is not uncommon, the MOST common result of using expired sunscreen is a sun burn.
Expired screens provide NO protection from the sun’s UV rays.
Before leaving Dr. Do’s office, she provided me with some helpful tips to practicing “safe sunscreening”.
Dr. Do’s Safe Sunscreen Tips:
- SPF 15 or higher – She HIGHLY recommends an SPF of 30 though.
- Frequent Applications - Reapply your sunscreen every 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection – UVA is resoponsible for deep sun damamge such as wrinkles, sunspots, and melinoma. UVB is responsible for damage on the skin surface, such as a sun burn, skin aging, and cancer.
- Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as main ingredient - These ingredient are natural sunscreens. They create a barrier on top of the skin to block harmful rays. Steer clear of Oxybenzone, which is a chemical sunscreen. This type of block absorbs into the skin.
- Check the Sunscreens Expiration Date - (duh!) Although the CDC says a sunscreen is okay to use up to 3 years, there is a catch – the shelf life is shorter if exposed to high temperature. What sunscreen HASN’T been exposed to high temperature??? This is why Dr. Do used the 1 year mark for discarding sunscreen. Better safe than sorry.