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Published May 23, 2013, 11:55 PM

5 things to know about protecting your skin

FARGO – Got sunscreen? About a third of Americans don’t use it, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

FARGO – Got sunscreen? About a third of Americans don’t use it, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

Dr. Yulia Khan, a dermatologist at Sanford Health, separates sunscreen fact from fiction so those summer rays can be safely enjoyed.

Today is also the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention’s “Don’t Fry Day,” a day dedicated to sun safety. Here are five common misconceptions about sunscreen:

I don’t need sunscreen if I have a tan or dark skin.

Fiction. Although darker skin protects people a little better from UV rays, it’s still not sufficient protection because it’s only an SPF 4 or 8 for very dark-skinned individuals like some African Americans, Khan says.

She adds that there’s no such thing as a healthy tan since skin creates pigment to provide protection from the sun once it’s already damaged.

Regardless of skin color, Khan says people need sunscreen because continuous UV damage can occur.

Putting sunscreen on in the morning will protect someone all day.

Fiction. Sunscreen isn’t very stable and typically lasts for two or three hours, Khan says. She suggests reading the information on a sunscreen bottle to find out how often it needs to be reapplied.

The higher the SPF number, the better the sunscreen.

It depends. While SPF 30 is going to be better than SPF 15, SPF 70 is only marginally better than SPF 50. Beyond that, Khan says, people are likely buying an expensive, greasy product that doesn’t protect much more than SPF 50.

On a day-to-day basis, SPF 30 is sufficient for most people who are out running errands or going to work, she says.

An SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays, and higher SPFs block only slightly more rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Besides having the proper SPF, Khan says applying enough of the sunscreen is important.

People should use a teaspoon of sunscreen on their face and an ounce on their body.

I can use my sunscreen from last year.

Fact. It’s OK to use it as long as it’s not expired, Khan says.

If it’s cloudy, I don’t need sunscreen.

Fiction. Clouds don’t screen UV rays, so even on a cloudy day, people can get sunburned, Khan says.

She encourages people to wear sunscreen even if they are inside and protected by glass (in a car, near a window, etc.) since UVA rays penetrate glass.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

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