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The Seasonal SPF Code For Skin Tone


This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail celia_

I have olive skin, which I’ve always used to justify my minimal (if any) sunscreen use. I’m starting to pay for it now but am curious if having darker skin, rather than lighter skin, helps reduce damage from UV exposure—or is sun damage sun damage no matter what skin type you have? Also, what SPF should I be wearing, in summer and winter?
“While the tendency toward UV-induced damage is related to skin type (lighter skin and eye color is more prone to UV damage than darker skin and brown eyes), all skin types are prone to UV assault. I recommend a minimum of SPF 15 broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection for all skin types—regardless of season. UVB (the shorter wavelength of UVR and the one associated with sunburn and skin cancer) varies by time of day and season (winter vs. summer), but UVA (the longer wavelength of UVR and the one associated with photo-aging and skin cancer) intensity is very similar year round. Individuals with family histories of skin cancer, regardless of skin color, are even more prone [to damage]. Such individuals should use broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection with an SPF rating of 30.”

Dr. Robert J. Friedman is a clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. The co-editor of the seminal textbook Cancer of the Skin, he is an expert on melanoma and the chairman, CEO and founder of MD Solar Sciences, a product range devoted to advancing the science of sun protection.

Photo: SuperStock / Getty Images

The Doctor Is In