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Sunscreens

Why is this medication prescribed?

Sunscreens help to prevent sunburn and reduce the harmful effects of the sun such as premature skin aging and skin cancer.

How should this medicine be used?

Sunscreens come in cream, lotion, gel, stick, spray, and lip balm. They are for external use only; do not swallow them. Sunscreens should be applied between 30 minutes and 2 hours before sun exposure. In general, they should be reapplied after every 80 minutes spent in the water or perspiring heavily or every 2 hours spent out of the water. Follow the directions on the label carefully, and ask your pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

Ask your pharmacist or doctor about which sunscreen product to use. The choice depends on your sunburn and tanning history, skin type, use of other medications, and reasons for using a sunscreen. You want a product with the appropriate sun protection factor (SPF) for you. In most cases, an SPF of greater than 30 is not necessary and is not recommended.

If you are using a sunscreen to prevent drug-induced photosensitivity reactions or to prevent ultraviolet-induced disorders, choose a broad-spectrum product. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

If you will be swimming or sweating heavily, choose a sunscreen that is labeled waterproof or very water resistant.

Talk to your doctor before using a sunscreen on an infant less than 6 months old. Use a sunscreen with a high SPF (e.g., 30) in children older than 6 months.

Sunscreens should be applied liberally to all exposed areas. The average adult in a bathing suit should apply 9 half-teaspoon (2.5 mL) size portions as follows:

  • Face and neck: 1 half-teaspoon (2.5 mL) portion

  • Arms and shoulders: 1 half-teaspoon (2.5 mL) portion to each arm

  • Torso: 1 half-teaspoon (2.5 mL) portion each to front and back

  • Legs and top of feet: 2 half-teaspoon (5 mL) portions to each leg

What special precautions should I follow?

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Before using sunscreens,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to sunscreens, diuretics ('water pills'), sulfonamides, oral diabetic drugs, acetazolamide (Diamox), or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacists what topical medications you are taking.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

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If you forget to apply sunscreen and remember while you are being exposed to the sun, apply it as soon as possible.

What side effects can this medication cause?

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Sunscreens may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if either of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • skin rash

  • irritation

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

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Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children.

What other information should I know?

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Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about sunscreens.

It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

Brand names of combination products

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  • Banana Boat® (containing Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone)
  • Bullfrog® (containing Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone)
  • Coppertone® (containing Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone)
  • Hawaiian Tropic® (containing Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone)
  • PreSun® (containing Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone)
  • Sundown® (containing Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Titanium dioxide)

Last Revised - 08/15/2011

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AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, 2014. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.