The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising, and the sunshine has you day-dreaming of spending long, care-free hours outdoors!
You know it’s time to grab the sunscreen, but are you really sunscreen savvy?
Before slathering on that all-important ounce of sun-damage prevention let's take a moment to learn about how sunscreen works, what it’s made of, and which one is best for you.
How does sunscreen work?
There are two basic types of sunscreen, physical (mineral) and chemical, and they work very differently.
Physical sunscreens form a shield that deflects the sun’s rays before they can penetrate and harm your skin.
Chemical sunscreen contains ingredients that penetrate the top layers of the skin to absorb UV rays before they can harm your skin.
What active ingredients are in sunscreen?
The active ingredients in physical sunscreens are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. People with sensitive skin often have better results with physical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. They are often found in sprays and are generally thought to be easier to rub into the skin and less likely to leave a white cast.
The U.S. FDA has approved both chemical and physical sunscreen active ingredients, deeming them safe and effective on skin.
Which type of sunscreen is best for you?
Sunscreens come in many forms - lotions, creams, gels, ointments, sticks, and sprays. Ultimately, the type of sunscreen you choose to use is based on personal choice. Here are some common uses for each type:
- Lotions and creams are best for those with dry skin and for use on the face.
- Gels are easy to use on skin with hair (scalp, chest, legs).
- Sticks are great to use around the eyes.
- Sprays are easily applied and require little rubbing to penetrate the skin.
How much sunscreen should I use?
It takes about one ounce of product to protect your entire body. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two-hours, unless swimming, sweating, or toweling off, then it should be applied more frequently.
Which SPF level do I need?
SPF means Sun Protection Factor. The number tells you how long the sunscreen will protect your skin from burning compared to using no product at all. For example, SPF 30, applied properly, will protect your skin 30 times longer than if you had used no sunscreen at all.
If you’re indoors most of the time, you can choose a sunscreen or cosmetic product with SPF 15, but if you’re going to be spending time outside, use SPF 30 or higher.
Regardless of the SPF level, make sure to choose a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum protection.” Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVA rays can pass through standard window glass.
- UVB rays are also known as burning rays and are the primary cause of sunburn. UVB rays cannot pass through window glass.
Feeling sunscreen savvy now?
Now that you know about the types of sunscreen, how they work, and what’s in them you can enjoy your time in the sun … RESPONSIBLY!
But before you actually head outside, don’t forget these three basic dermatologist-recommended sun-safety tips:
- Avoid being out in the sun during peak hours when the rays are strongest - between 10am - 2pm. Pro tip: If your shadow is shorter than you, it’s time to go inside or find shade!!
- Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun: wear a lightweight long-sleeve shirt, long pants, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses.
- Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher at least 15-minutes before heading out into the sun. Reapply at least every two hours - more often if you’re in the water or sweating.
What if I already have sun damaged skin?
Wouldn’t it be nice to transport back in time so you could start diligently following this advice BEFORE seeing signs of photoaging from sun damage?
But it’s not, [sigh], so if you have wrinkles or dark spots from sun exposure, call (757) 461-1033 (Opt. 1) to schedule an appointment with one of our cosmetic specialists.
We can erase years of sun damage and bring back a healthier, more youthful you!
Other Helpful Sunscreen Resources