Hi! My name is Karen and I’m a sunscreen buff. Geek, if you will. This sunscreen blog is complete with all the questions I’ve been asked plus a little more info to really hit it home. Are you as excited as I am?! Let’s go!
What is the biggest bang for your buck when we are talking about anti-aging?
My answer every time will be to purchase a great sunscreen. Not only does it help with protecting you from skin cancer but it also helps your skin from aging prematurely. Easier said than done, right? You walk down any store isle and it can be extremely over- whelming with all of the options. So, let’s go over the important facts you need to know when selecting the right sun protection for you and your family.
The first descriptor you need to look for on any sunscreen container is “broad spectrum”. Sunlight actually has two types of harmful rays, which are UVA and UVB. Overexposure to either one can put you at risk for skin cancer. UVA rays are the culprit for giving us premature aging to our skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays are the cause of sunburns. It is important to note that while UVB rays are blocked by window glass, UVA rays are not. So keep in mind that when you are driving in your car, you may not be getting a sunburn but, you better believe the UVA rays are still getting to you! When you
choose a broad spectrum sunscreen you are being protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
I get the question on a daily basis of “who needs sunscreen?” and the answer is very straightforward - everyone over 6 months of age (under 6 months old should avoid sun). I also have had many clients tell me that they tan nicely and don’t get burned so, are they off the hook for worrying about the sun? No way! Anyone can get skin cancer regardless of skin type, race, gender or age. Sunscreen is a must to keep you safe and your skin healthy.
What does SPF even mean?
SPF = Sun Protection Factor. It is a rating for sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing sunscreen. In theory, the SPF number indicates how long you can stay in the sun before your skin reddens. SPF is only used to rate a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB rays.
Is a high number SPF better than a low numbered one?
The recommendation is to use a sunscreen that has SPF of at least 30, which will block 93% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UVB but no sunscreen can block 100%. It is important to note that high number SPFs last the same amount of time as low number SPFs. A high number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication. Sunscreens should be reapplied every 2 hours even on cloudy days, after swimming or sweating.
What types of sunscreens are there?
Chemical and mineral sunscreens are the two options available. There is, and always has been, a lot of debate if chemical or mineral sunscreens are better and/or have different risks. The current research shows the FDA is stating chemical and/or mineral sunscreens are safe and protect against skin cancers.
The chemical sunscreens work like a sponge and absorb the sun’s rays. They contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, momosalate and octinoxate. These formulations may be easier to rub into the skin without leaving a white residue. Mineral sunscreens work like a shield, sitting on the surface of your skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. They contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. This may be a better choice for those with sensitive skin.
Who regulates sunscreen and are they safe?
Sunscreen products are regulated as over the counter drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has several safety and effectiveness regulations in place that govern the manufacture and marketing of all sunscreen products, including safety data on its ingredients.
Scientific evidence supports the benefits of using sunscreen to minimize short-term and long-term damage to the skin from the sun’s rays. Claims that sunscreen ingredients are toxic and/or a hazard to human health have not been proven.
The FDA continues to evaluate spray sunscreens for safety and effectiveness on your skin. There is so much variability on the application of the sprays since it is difficult to know if you used enough to cover all the exposed areas. When using a spray, make sure to spray an adequate amount and make sure to rub it in.
Is your sunscreen still effective?
FDA requires all sunscreens to retain their original strength for at least 3 years, so make sure to check the expiration date if listed on the container; if it has expired, throw it out.
If you buy a sunscreen that doesn’t have an expiration date, write the date you bought the sunscreen on the bottle; that way you will have a baseline of when to throw it out. However, if any sunscreen becomes discolored or runny from when you purchased it, it is time to buy yourself a new bottle.
Review of what to look for when buying a sunscreen:
- Broad Spectrum
- SPF 30 or above
- Reapply every 2 hours
A sunscreen that covers what is listed above will assist to protect your skin from early signs of aging, sunburn and skin cancer. Sunscreen is quite the powerhouse but, it cannot stand alone to reduce your exposure to skin cancer, so here are a few other things you can do to protect yourself.
First, let’s start with a broad brimmed hat! A broad brimmed hat will cover your face, neck and, of course, don’t forget the tips of your ears! This hat needs to be occlusive or have a lining, so say goodbye to your straw hat. And baseball hats have a nice brim to cover your face but leave too many other areas exposed.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a rating that is generally used in clothing that will protect you from the sun.This will measure the amount of UVA and UVB radiation that penetrates the fabric and reaches the skin. The higher the number is better when it comes to UVP clothing. It is a great time to start looking for swimsuits, dresses, hats and shirts. These are becoming very popular, which means they have many varieties and styles to choose from. I came across a UVP long sleeve shirt that has thumb holes so not only is my upper body fully protected but, also the tops of my hands that are so easily forgotten to protect. I wore this type of shirt all week on a cruise and it kept me protected from the sun, cool on the beach, and it was easy to swim in. Clearly, I am a big fan! Also, most of our young daughter’s swim gear we purchase is UVP clothing, as it is a time saver for putting sunscreen all over her body. Minutes count when they are excited and whining to get into that pool!
And don’t forget about your lips! Apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher and reapply at least every 2 hours, or as needed.
Avoiding the sun
Are you using sunscreen all year round? I hope your answer is yes because the sun emits these harmful UV rays year-round; it does not take vacation days. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. Did you know that water, sand, and even snow reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance
of sunburn? So, use good judgement and protect yourself whether you are skiing in the summer or the winter! Seek shade whenever possible and don’t forget the sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm so be extra diligent with sun protection during those times.
PLEASE, please, please avoid tanning beds and booths. Ultraviolet light from the sun AND tanning units cause skin cancer and wrinkling. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer have declared UV radiations from the sun and tanning beds are a known carcinogen, which means this is a cancer-causing substance. If you love the look of your skin being tan, seek out self-tanning products and then wear your sunscreen over that. There are also some incredible mineral makeup tricks you can do to have a beautiful bronzed look without putting your skin at risk.
We have multiple mineral sunscreens here at Yonick Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Center that will keep you protected from the UV rays and are great for sports, water and everyday wear. You must find the sunscreen that your skin loves. For example, I use a few different sunscreens that feel best for my various activities. My favorites are:
ZO Skin Health Sunscreen + Primer. I use it as the last step in my morning facial regimen. This is a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen with SPF 30. The benefit is the built-in primer so I can just bypass that step when applying makeup. It also has a sheer matte finish and a slight tint so, if I decide not to put makeup on, it gives me a little coverage. I can also reapply this over my makeup when it is time to and it won’t smudge! How amazing is that?!
Yonick Antioxidant Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 50 is my go-to for my weekend sunscreen. This is also a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen that is fast absorbing, oil and paraben free and can work as a makeup primer. Most of the staff in our office, and a lot of our clients, prefer this one as their daily sunscreen use but, my skin chooses something different. Your skin is the boss so listen to it!
I strongly suggest to come into the office and try on a few to see which one is right for you! When you find the sunscreen that doesn’t make your face/body feel oily or greasy, you will love putting it on.
Armed with all this sunscreen knowledge, have a blast this summer and, as always, keep your skin protected! If you have any additional questions about sunscreen or skin care, please call our office for a free consultation.