Now that we are into Spring and we can see Summer coming just around the corner, patients are constantly asking our opinion on sunscreen. With skin cancer rates continuing to rise each year sunscreen and overall sun protection is more important than ever. In this post we will go over some common questions regarding sunscreen and sun protection.
1. Isn’t a “healthy” tan good for me?
Let’s all answer this one together…NO! There is no such thing as a “healthy” tan. Any amount of tan is damage to your skin which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. The best thing you can do to prevent these things from happening? Avoid the sun! Now, we don’t mean spend all day long inside and miss out on the beauty of summer! But, if you can, try to at least avoid the parts of the day where the sun is the strongest, which is 10am-2pm. If you are going to be out at these times, try to seek some shade under an umbrella or a wide brimmed hat and of course, wear that sunscreen!!
2. I keep reading that my sunscreen is actually worse for me than the sun, is that true?
This is one of the hottest topics out there right now with sun protection, but don’t let it scare you away from lathering up! There are some ingredients in leading sunscreens that if possible you should try to avoid. Retinyl Palmitate is one ingredient getting a lot of press right now. There was a study done on hairless mice who received topical doses of Retinyl Palmitate and were then exposed to UV rays. The conclusion of this study showed that the mice who were given the RP had increased photocarginogenicty, increased skin lesions, and increased presence of squamous cell neoplasms. It is important to remember that there have been no human studies showing these results, but as RP does not add anything your sunscreen in ways of protecting you from the sun, it is probably a good idea to find a sunscreen without it. Also remember that these findings were only when RP was put on prior to being exposed to UV rays. This is why we always recommend using your Retinol and Retinoids (other forms of Vitamin A used for anti-aging) at night instead of in the morning. The chemical forms of sunscreen are also a hot topic, particularly Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a trigger for allergic reactions and can also behave similar to estrogen in the body. Although it is found in a large percentage of sunscreens out there, there are plenty without it, so make sure you read your ingredients!
3. What should my sunscreen have in it?
The very best form of sunscreen is a physical sunscreen! This means that instead of using chemicals that go into your skin to block the UV rays, the sunscreen has ingredients that stay on the outside of the skin to form a barrier against the sun to deflect those UV rays. Sounds a lot safer doesn’t it? The two ingredients that you want to look for in your sunscreen are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. The only downside of a physical sunscreen is that can be more difficult to spread and can sometimes leave a white film. As these types of sunscreens are becoming more and more popular this is certainly improving though. We think overall it is a small price to pay for less wrinkles and decreasing your chances of getting skin cancer.
4. The highest SPF I can find is the best, right?
This is actually not true. High SPFs above 50 should actually be avoided. The majority of these high SPF sunscreens are only boasting protection from UVB rays (the rays that cause burning) but not from UVA rays which can actually penetrate deeper into your skin causing a lot of damage. Instead of searching for the highest SPF you can find, try to find something that has broad spectrum coverage for both UVB AND UVA rays. SPF 30 is actually fine to use (never go below SPF 15), but make sure you are putting enough on and making sure you are reapplying frequently. The higher SPFs tend to give a false sense of security leading to spending more time in the sun and not re-applying enough. As a rule, reapply every time you get out of the water or every 1-2 hours.
5. I still have some sunscreen left over from last year, can I use it?
If you are using your sunscreen correctly, meaning applying enough of it, applying it EVERY day and reapplying frequently when spending a lot of time in the sun, you should have used up all of your sunscreen from last summer! But, if on the chance you did not, it is probably best to toss it and buy a new one as it is not guaranteed that after sitting on a shelf for the last year they will still be as effective, especially against those pesky UVA rays. Some sunscreens will also have expiration dates which should always be followed!
We hope this helps shed some light (hehe) on the truth about sunscreens! Please comment below with any additional questions you might have. And remember, the BEST sunscreen is the one you will actually wear, so pick one you LIKE!