NOLA burn specialist shares secret to proper sun protection this summer


In most cases, you should reapply your sunscreen every two hours. It’s especially important to reapply if you’re sweating or swimming.

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Memorial Day marked the official start of summer.

And in New Orleans, that means a higher risk of skin damage due to prolonged sun exposure in the stifling Louisiana heat.

University Medical Center’s Burn Center director, Dr. Jeffrey Carter, talked to WGNO last week to share some top tips to keep locals protected and pain free. And according to Dr. Carter, when it comes to sunscreen, the secret is not the amount of SPF protection, but rather the amount – and frequency – of its application.

“Use an appropriate level of sun block, and then re-apply, re-apply, re-apply,” said Dr. Carter, who is also a professor of surgery at LSU Health New Orleans. “We see the most severe burn injuries, even people who will get a second-degree burn, from severe sun exposure when it’s prolonged or when they use something that is not a form of sun block.”

Dr. Carter also explained that the tanning process is a reaction to the trauma sunlight inflicts on the skin.

“The longer you expose yourself to that [trauma], the higher the risk of not only skin cancer, but the higher the risk of sustaining a severe burn injury,” he said.

The importance of hydration is another critical facet in combatting the summer sun and minimizing chances of a heat stroke or suffering complications from other chronic conditions as he explains in the video clip above.

When asked about the importance of SPF protection in choosing the right sun block, Dr. Carter re-iterated his instructions regarding application frequency.

“We all have different pigments, and we all burn differently,” he said. “So there is not one perfect [SPF] number for everyone. But the biggest thing we’ve seen is people not re-applying. They think if they just put on that SPF 100 they are going to be fine and then eight hours later they have a roaring burn injury.

“We really recommend using at least [SPF] 30 if not 50, and then making sure you re-apply, re-apply, re-apply.”

Sun block is not the only line of defense when it comes to protection. According to Dr. Carter, choosing the right clothing can also increase SPF protection before even reaching for the lotion.

“Something that is new now is sun block in clothing,” he said. “A typical T-shirt has an SPF of 10. Now we have clothing that has an SPF of 50.”

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