Short answer: It doesn’t matter — as long as you wear sunscreen in some form, says Arlene Cohen, oncology nurse at HealthAlliance Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).
Cohen recommends creams for drier skin and the face, gels for hairy areas like the scalp or male chest, and sticks for the sensitive area around the eyes. Overall, she favors a visible form of sunscreen over the sprays. “With creams and lotions, you know there’s adequate coverage because you can see it,” Cohen says. “Plus, research is still underway about whether inhalation of sprays is harmful; make sure that when you’re spraying kids, the wind isn’t blowing the spray into their mouths.”
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher, she says, using enough to cover the entire body (about 1.5 ounces). “Make sure the sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays. While both cause sunburn, UVB rays play the key role in causing cancer.”
Whatever type of sunscreen you use, “reapply it every two hours,” says Cohen.
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