A Q&A With Dermatologist, Dr. Elena Jones

The time is always now to delve deeper into sun safety, and what that notion means for the way we live our daily lives. For deeper insight into what many see as an unnecessary disruptor, but so necessary to protecting the delicate skin we’re in, we tapped none other than respected New York City based, Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Elena L. Jones for answers to our most-curious questions. Trained in dermatology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, and previously on the faculty of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital's Skin of Color Center, Dr. Jones is well-versed in sun safety for all. Presently, Dr. Jones is an attending physician in the Pediatric Dermatology Clinic at Weil Cornell Hospital, and enjoys a long-standing private practice for the past 20 years.

Q: The sun is back! Please debunk these sun care myths.

True or False? Foundation is a suitable replacement for sunscreen. Please explain.

A: NO WAY is foundation a suitable replacement for sunscreen! If you desire the coverage of a foundation, consider the tinted moisturizers that contain an SPF of 15 or above, or apply a sunscreen first with an SPF of 15 or above, and then apply your foundation.

Q: True or False? When we wear multiple layers of different SPF levels we're better protected. Please explain.

A: NO WAY! The SPF number in sunscreen can not be added. An SPF of 100 does not block the damaging rays 100%. It's best to apply a broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB ray coverage) sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. It must be reapplied throughout the day. (Every hour if you are at an outdoor event or activity). A total of 1 oz or 1 shot glass full of sunscreen for the body every hour is the amount recommended.

Q: What time of day is best to avoid the sun?

A: The sun's rays are most intense between the hours of 10am and 4pm. It doesn't mean that we fully shun the sun but, [it just means] that we [should] wear protective clothing, sunglasses, hats and sunscreen. Shaded areas should be chosen at every opportunity.

Q:  If someone of any shade wants "sunkissed" skin, how can they do it safely? Are tanning beds a safe option? Sun tanning oils?

A: "Sunkissed" [skin] can be achieved with sunscreen of an SPF 15 or higher. It's nearly impossible to avoid all of the sun's rays, and sun with sunscreen is important in supporting our Vitamin D levels. Tanning beds should NEVER be used by anyone. Think of the distance that the sun's rays (millions of miles) have to travel to reach our skin as compared to the distance that the artificial rays of a tanning bed must travel (inches) to reach our body.

Q: What's the earliest age someone should start wearing sunscreen?

A: Sunscreen should be started at 6 months of age along with protective eyewear and clothing and shade. Prior to that appropriate protective clothing, shade and cover should be strongly encouraged.

Q: The trend of drinkable sunscreens is gaining more and more traction. What are your thoughts? Do they even work? Are they as effective as what we know to be traditional sunscreens?

A: Drinkable sunscreens such as Heliocare (capsules) can be used as an adjunct to sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) and sun avoidance and sun protection. These sun's teens offer a SPF of about 8. But, remember sunscreen SPF is not additive. These drinkable sunscreens can be of some benefit to people with photosensitizing skin conditions or conditions that are worsened by the sun. Perhaps, surfers, boaters, fisherman and anyone who spends a lot of their daylight hours working in the sun might benefit from these agents. Lastly, there may be an anti-aging benefit to these agents. But, they are not the end all be all. We have yet to develop the pill that we will halt or dramatically alter the aging process.

Q: What's the difference (if any) between sunscreens for children versus that for an adult?

A: There isn't an appreciable difference between sunscreens for children and adults. There are sunscreens that can be shared by the entire family and there are sunscreens that add antioxidants or tints aimed at the adult population.

Q: Are there any contraindications to sunscreen? Who can't wear it and why?

A: There are people who are allergic to some of the ingredients in sunscreen.; these people should rely on protective clothing and sun avoidance.

Q: With so many SPF's on the market, is there one SPF level that works for all? Please explain.

A: Studies have shown that Broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to be adequate in sun protection. I tend to recommend SPF 30 for fairer-skinned people, or people who tend to burn easily.

Q: If we try and cheat the system and not wear sunscreen, what other ways can we protect ourselves?

A: Sun protective clothing! Rash guards at the beach, hats, sunglasses and SHADE!

Q: What treatment options are there for sunburned skin?

A: Sunburns can be treated with topical steroids, anti-inflammatory agents such as Tylenol, cooling the skin, aloe or any type of moisture, moisture, moisture.

Q: Excess sun exposure is the perfect storm for skin cancer. What should we be on the lookout for as we inspect our skin? Or better yet, how often should we see a dermatologist for a skin cancer check and what does that check entail?

A: There are 5 criteria that is used to evaluate moles. The A, B, C, D, E's of melanoma (the most worrisome and potentially deadliest skin cancer)

A = asymmetry: examine the mole to ensure that one side looks like the other side of the mole.

B = borders: borders of the mole must be regular and not jagged or irregular

C = color : the mole should be uniformly colored but not black nor should it be multiple colors such as red, white, blue and black all within one mole.

Q: What are some parting words for us on the importance of wearing sunscreen?

A: Make sunscreen a part of your daily routine wherever you live, your skin will truly appreciate its use over time.

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