By Stephanie Pego

Suntan dr kourtney hightowerThe first day of spring is barely a month past as Central Florida natives and tourists trade in their sweaters for swimsuits and sunblock to enjoy the beaches and theme parks.

Amidst all the sunshine, Floridians might be digging out old bottles of sunscreen or eyeing new brands wondering, ‘What’s the best?’ SPF, broad spectrum, UVA/UVB, waterproof, lotion or spray; these are just a few of the options on the market. Dermatologists have advised the use of sunscreen for years, but what do all the terms actually mean in offering up the most protection?

Local dermatologist Dr. Kortney Hightower of Hightower Dermatology in Sun City Center shares simple tips to debunk some of the myths and confusion on sun-skin care.

“With sunscreens, generally you get what you pay for,” Dr. Hightower said. “But no matter what brand you choose, it should be one that has ‘broad spectrum’ written on the bottle, meaning it covers both UVB and UVA rays.”

UVA means long wave ultraviolet A and UVB means short wave ultraviolet B; the former causes aging signs in the skin while the latter causes sun burn.

Now on to a question of mathematics: Is the highest SPF number possible the best?

“SPF definitely matters,” Dr. Hightower said. “Maximum protection is an SPF of 30-45. However, a recent study showed that on average we apply approximately one quarter of the recommended amount, and therefore we are getting about one third to one quarter of the SPF number on the bottle. Therefore, you need to either apply four times what you usually do or use an SPF of 70 or higher to get the appropriate protection.”

As residents start planning vacation days to favorite beaches or park spots, the tell-tale smell of coconut sunscreen grows stronger.

“Personally,” Dr. Hightower said, “I think the best sunscreen on the market is Anthelios from La Roche-Posay, and a close second are ones from Neutrogena and Aveeno.”

Dr. Hightower’s last piece of advice is to mindfully limit the amount of time spent in the sun, even with the protection of a good sunblock.

“Sunscreens tend to give people a false sense of security. This leads to them staying in the sun for longer periods of time and they end up getting more damage.”

For more information about Hightower Dermatology, call 634-1484.

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