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University of Iowa News Release

June 9, 2003

UI Dermatologist Offers Sunscreen Tips

Local discount and grocery store aisles are stocked with sun protection products for just about everyone, but what kind of sunscreen offers the best protection for your skin? Here are a few helpful hints for protecting your skin this summer.

The first and most important thing to remember is to wear sunscreen, said Duane Whitaker, M.D., University of Iowa professor of dermatology.

Doctors generally recommend that sunscreen, with a minimum SPF 15, is applied 30 to 60 minutes prior to sun exposure. This allows maximum absorption, allowing the active ingredients to interact with the sun to provide maximum protection.

How should you go about choosing a sunscreen from the aisle of different formulas and protection levels?

"The first thing to do is use whatever method and formula that is going to make you want to do it again, every time you go into the sun," Whitaker said.

Choose a formula that feels good on your skin. Some people prefer more oily varieties that leave the skin feeling very moist, while others prefer formulas that are very drying and absorb almost instantly into the skin. Any formula is safe to use; for most it is simply a matter of personal preference.

"If you're like me and don't like the feeling of a residue on your skin, you can blot skin with a dry towel or tissue paper after the sunscreen has moistened the skin," Whitaker said. Blotting excess residue will not alter the effectiveness of the formula, he noted.

Do not forget to reapply sunscreen after prolonged sun exposure, swimming or intense rubbing (such as towel-drying).

Sunscreen is safe to use on infant and toddler skin. Higher numbers of SPF do not mean the formula is harsher, so high numbers such as SPF 30 or SPF 45 are safe to use. However, be sure to test an area of skin for extra sensitivity. This can be done simply by applying a small amount to skin on the arm and making sure there is no adverse reaction before applying the formula to all exposed skin.

"The best thing you can do is simply make sure to use sunscreen, no matter the kind, whenever you're going to be exposed to the sun," Whitaker said.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT(S): David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, Writer: Tiffany Bronk