23 Apr Do I really need that Sunscreen?
Do I really need that Sunscreen?
Given the sunny weather we are experiencing heading into summer and the abundance of people getting fresh air and leaving the house to bike, walk, and run, it is extremely important to focus on proper sun protection.
Yes, I know many of you may be thinking “I always tan and never burn, so what’s the big deal.” Well, I am here to tell you why sunscreen should be your best friend and what to look for in the right sunscreen. We know that the sun causes cumulative damage to our skin, resulting in the weakening and breakdown of our normal collagen and elastin fibers. This leads to laxity of the skin and the dreaded wrinkles that we get with time. In addition, the sun’s UV rays (mostly UVA) cause “sun spots” (called lentigines), “broken blood vessels” (telangiectasias), and general unevenness of the skin tone. All of these problems are just a symptom of a (usually) life-long sunscreen deficiency.
In addition to the cosmetically unappealing consequences of long-term sun exposure, we know that the sun’s UV rays (this time UVB more so than UVA) contribute to free radical formation in the skin and ultimately progression to skin cancer. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, and one person dies from Melanoma every hour. Although more common in fair skinned patients, skin cancer can commonly affect Caucasians that “only tan and don’t burn” and even darker skin types.
So how much sun is too much? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a healthy tan since it is an indicator of UV damage. Experiencing five or more blistering sunburns in adolescence can increase your risk of Melanoma by 80 percent. The use of indoor tanning beds increases your risk of Melanoma by close to 60 percent. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to all exposed areas cuts the risk of Melanoma in half! Sunscreen should be the mainstay of our skin care regimen, especially as Floridians. It should be applied every morning before leaving the house and reapplied every two to three hours when outdoors. Even if you are not a beach-goer, it is an important habit to adopt because both chronic tanning and intermittent sun exposure can lead us down the skin cancer pathway.
So you may be wondering how to navigate the sunscreen aisle. I always say, “The best sunscreen is the one that you are going to use.” That being said, there are some important criteria to look for when choosing a sunscreen. One thing to keep in mind, is that research has found that we use half as much sunscreen as we should, and thus, we are likely getting about half the SPF listed. For that reason and because higher SPF sunscreens have better UVA protection (remember, the rays that cause photoaging), we recommend choosing an SPF of at least 30. The term “broad-spectrum” indicates both UVA and UVB coverage, and “water-resistant” means reapplication is needed after 40 minutes of water activities or excessive sweating. One ounce of sunscreen is the amount recommended to cover the entire body of an average sized person for one application. So that means for a five hour trip to the beach you should have used your entire bottle of sunscreen, based on an average 3 oz Neutrogena cream sunscreen.
In terms of ingredients, the most “natural” and most broad-spectrum ingredients are zinc and titanium “sunblocks” that physically block the sun. Many other sunscreens on the market contain only chemical sunscreens. These absorb UV rays and become inactivated with repeated exposure to UV, which is why reapplication is important. I personally recommend choosing predominantly mineral based sunscreens. My favorite sunscreen line which we also carry in the office is Elta MD. Their light mineral based sunscreens absorb transparently into the skin without leaving behind a residue and are great even for picky sunscreen users like my son and husband! Check out our webstore for a full selection of Elta MD sunscreens for all skin types!
This being said, do not rely on sunscreen alone to protect you while having fun outdoors. It is still best to “seek shade” during the peak hours of the sun between 10 a.m- 3 p.m. and wear UPF sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.