When it comes to sunscreen, we know you’ve got questions!
Q: Are there certain chemicals in sunscreen that people should avoid?
A: There are 2 common types of sunscreens currently on the market:
Chemical blockers protect your skin by absorbing the sun’s harmful rays through a chemical reaction that convert the UVA and UVB rays into heat and release it from your skin’s surface. Common ingredients used in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
Physical blockers reflect ultraviolet rays from the sun before they can penetrate the skin and cause any damage. They contain one of two active ingredients, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These types of sunscreens are effective at protecting against UVA and UVB rays and are especially helpful for people who are allergic to chemical sunscreens.
Every year, new sunscreens are introduced to the market, offering more effective and longer lasting protection against the sun. If you are uncertain about the effectiveness or safety of a new sunscreen product, just remember that all the ingredients listed above are tried and true methods for protecting your skin against UVA and/or UVB rays (oxybenzone has received negative press because of concerns that it may act as a hormone disruptor, however, studies show that there is no definitive conclusion that this is the case).
Physical blockers generally protect against UVA and UVB rays (aka broad-spectrum), however, chemical blockers may not protect against both UVA and UVB rays depending on the composition of the sunscreen. Just remember that whichever type of sunscreen you prefer to use, make sure it is labeled as a broad-spectrum sunscreen!
Q: Is there evidence that sunscreen actually causes skin cancer? Is this true?
A: This is absolutely false! We know that repeated and extended exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays without appropriate protection can increase the risk of skin cancer over time. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life inside, sunscreens – both mineral and chemical versions – are one of the most effective forms of protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of sunscreen at preventing various types of skin cancer. Other studies have shown that it was high amounts of sun exposure, not the sunscreen, that elevated the risk of skin cancer.
While it is important to regularly use sunscreen, the safest and most effective method for protecting against skin cancer caused by UV rays is to minimize exposure to the sun by avoiding being outside between 10 AM and 4PM, and by wearing clothing and/or hats. A good place to start are companies that specialize in outdoor clothing, who have lines of clothing with a built in SPF rating.
If you are looking to purchase some new sunscreen, don’t forget that we carry several moisturizers with built-in sun protection. Call us for more info!
Q: Some people claim that sunscreen doesn’t prevent the three main types of skin cancer. Is this true?
A: False! There are numerous studies showing that sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. For example, in 2011, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a randomized, clinical study of over 1,600 people showing that regular sunscreen use reduced the incidence of melanoma by 50-73%. When used as directed with other sun protection measures, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher helps prevent sunburn and reduces the risk of early skin aging and skin cancer (melanoma and squamous cell carcinomas) associated with UV radiation.
Q: Does everyone need to use sunscreen?
A: Yes everyone should use sunscreen, especially if you have a fairer skin tone. People with fair skin are especially susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays. It is true that people with darker skin tones have some ‘built-in’ sun protection: darker skin tones contain melanin, the pigment the pigment that produces skin color, which also acts as a natural filter to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. However, melanin does not block ALL of the sun’s harmful rays.
Keep in mind that the sun affects our skin in two ways. First, UVB rays bombard our skin and damage the DNA in our cells. With time and repeated exposure to the sun, the damage to our DNA increases the likelihood of getting skin cancer. Second, UVA rays bombard our skin surface and causes tanning. While this may seem like a benefit, UVA rays also contribute to accelerated skin aging ie: wrinkles. If the amount of UV rays you’re exposed to exceeds the protection provided by melanin, your skin can still be harmed. So no matter your skin tone, make sure you use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
Q: Does wearing sunscreen put you at risk for a Vitamin D deficiency?
A: UVB rays are shortwaves from the sun that are important for generating Vitamin D in your skin, which is a critical vitamin for regulating the amount of calcium in your body. How much Vitamin D your skin produces depends on a few factors, including:
- The time of day-your skin produces more Vitamin D if you expose it during the peak sunlight hours (10AM-3PM).
- Where you live- the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight year round.
- The color if your skin-fair skin makes Vitamin D more quickly than darker skin.
- The amount of skin you expose- the more skin you expose the more Vitamin D your body will produce.
Sunscreen protects your skin by blocking UVA and UVB rays, so naturally, the application of sunscreen will limit the amount of Vitamin D your body can produce in a given day. So not let this discourage you from using sunscreen! Most people apply sunscreen inconsistently and use less that recommended amount and therefore are not typically deficient in Vitamin D. However, if you are still concerned that sunscreen will put you are risk for vitamin D deficiency, ask your doctor to recommend a vitamin D supplement.
Q: How much sunscreen should I apply?
A: Surprisingly, most people only apply about 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen to their bodies. The rule of thumb is to use 1oz. Of sunscreen to cover the exposed areas of your body. If you are unsure what 1oz. Of sunscreen looks like, it is approximately one shot glass (two tablespoons) worth of sunscreen.
To start, make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF of higher. Apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors to allow your skin time to absorb it. Cover ALL exposed areas, and don’t forget to get the tops of your feet, legs, and ears. Even thought these parts of your body may not get as much sun exposure, they are still at risk of getting burned. For your lips, try using a lip balm with sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Don’t think you can apply once and be done with it! If you like staying out in the sun all day, make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or sooner if you are sweating profusely, swimming, or toweling off. Although some sunscreen brands are advertised as sweat proof or waterproof, these brands can vary in how long they last under wet conditions. Play it safe and reapply!
The sun’s rays are always attacking your skin, regardless of clear or cloudy skies. Remember that the safest way to avoid sun damage is to reduce the amount of time you spend outdoors. However, if you have to be outside, sunscreen is one of the most effective tools out there to protect you from the sun!
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