To Your Health: Choosing a sunscreen

To Your Health: Choosing a sunscreen

By Laura A. Cattell, PA-C

Ed. note: It's the Fourth of July, with local crowds on Telluride's Main Street soaking in the fun – and, if the weather gods are on our side – the sun. Sunscreens should be as much a part of the celebration as flags, fireworks and BBQ. This first installment of the Telluride Medical Center's new series, "To Your Health: Medical News You Can  Use" is all about sunscreens. This first post was created by Laura A Cattell, certified physician's assistant, Telluride Medical Center. You will meet the rest of the doctors, including the visiting doctors, as "To Your Health" unfolds. Look for the column every other Monday.

Dr. Laura Sunscreens remain the mainstay of a sun protection regimen as we enjoy all the amazing outdoor activities the Telluride region has to offer. Now picking a good safe sunscreen just got easier.

The FDA recently announced new rules for labeling of sunscreens and issued the following statement:

“Sunscreen ingredients are safe, and the benefits of regular sunscreen use far outweigh any potential risks.”

The main points of the FDA’s new rules include the following:

• Sunscreens may be labeled “broad spectrum” only if they provide protection against  both UVA and UVB radiation.

• Only broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or higher can state they protect against skin cancer if used as directed with other sun protection measures.

• The terms “sun block”, “sweat proof” and “waterproof” are no longer allowed on sunscreen labels.

• A sunscreen may claim to be “water resistant," but must  also specify it offers 40 or 80- minutes of protection while swimming or sweating based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a stipulation specifying consumers must use a water resistant sunscreen when swimming or sweating.

• Sunscreens cannot claim to provide sun protection for more then two hours without reapplication.

There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical.

The "physical" variety protects your skin from the sun by deflection or the blocking of the sun's rays. The active ingredients are either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These forms of sunscreen tend to be less irritating and result in fewer allergic reactions.

"Chemical" sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. There are multiple chemical formulations available on the market. They tend to be less heavy than their "physical" counterparts and they do not leave a white residue.

Remember, when choosing a sunscreen,  you want both UVA and UVB protection. Reapply at least every two hours (more frequently if swimming or sweating) and use enough to make a difference, at least two tablespoons/application.

For more information on sun safety and sunscreens please go to: and

For more information on the Telluride Medical Center, follow this link and listen to Susan Viebrock's interview with Dr. Sharon Grundy and chief administrator Gordon Reichard.

Laura Cattell attended George Washington University School of Medicine, where she obtained a masters degree in health science and a physician's assistant degree. Areas of interest include family health, women’s health care, nutrition, and dermatology, although she loves the diversity of care she is able to practice in Telluride. Laura has been happily associated with the Telluride Medical Center since 2000.

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