Dermatologists have done a pretty good job broadcasting the message that we should wear sunscreen every day. Choosing one is the challenge.
Valentina Hubsch had problems making the decision.
She says, "A lot of times it was either too greasy or I tend to buy something that was with alcohol and it would dry out my skin.”
Using cutting edge technology, dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann diagnosed Valentina's skin type. Dr. Baumann believes that's the secret to choosing the perfect sunscreen.
She says, "If you have dry skin, your sunscreen should moisturize your skin."
Creams are best for that.
The doctor says, "When you have oily skin, you want to look for a gel or spray.”
That will help absorb oil, as will sunscreen powders.
Dr. Baumann says, "If you’re in the middle, then you can use a lotion. If you have sensitive or inflamed skin, you should use an anti-inflammatory sunscreen. If you have wrinkles you should use a sunscreen that has retinol or an anti wrinkle ingredient in it.”
Valentina is armed with a lot more knowledge.
She says, "I didn't realize I was getting sun through the car, you know, 'cause I don't have tinted windows, and just running from here to the grocery store, so now I've learned that I use sunscreen every day."
Dr. Baumann says, "Your sunscreen should work for you. It should do more than just protect you against the sun.”
This sunscreen strategy works for Valentina. Her skin has never looked better.
"I think that it's really helped me to not be as dry," she says. "And it's also protected me from more freckles and more pigment as I age."
Dr. Baumann says more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better protection from the sun. Finding a sunscreen you'll use, whatever the cost, is the key to success.
Fast Facts:Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Everyone should take steps to avoid sun exposure. Those who can’t stay out of the sun should wear sunscreen, protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Sunscreens can provide more sun protection. Choosing the right kind of sunscreen can also promote healthy skin.
The Dangers of Sunlight
Sunlight comes to the earth in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two important types of UV rays. UVA rays (wavelengths of 320-400 nm) are not absorbed by the ozone layer surrounding the earth. They can penetrate deeply into the skin and cause damage that leads to premature wrinkling, leathering and age spots.
UVB rays (wavelengths of 320 to 290 nm) are partially absorbed by the ozone layer. However the rays that make it to the surface are very damaging to the skin, causing sunburn and increasing the risk of skin cancers. The three most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, are all associated with chronic exposure to sunlight.
Health experts say the best way to protect the skin from sun exposure is to stay out of the sun. However, that’s often impractical, and sometimes, not possible. So the next best advice is to take steps to protect the skin from the sun. Tightly woven clothing can block some of the sun’s rays from the skin. A wide-brimmed hat can protect the head and sunglasses protect the eyes.
Uncovered areas of the body should be protected with a sunscreen. Sunscreens contain chemical ingredients that absorb UVB and, sometimes, UVA radiation. Some sunscreens also contain physical agents (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) that reflect, scatter, or absorb UV rays.
Tips for Sunscreen Use
Not all sunscreens are created equal. Sunscreens are rated by a system called, Sun Protection Factor, or SPF. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends consumers choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. However, SPF is a measure of protection against UVB only. An SPF of 15 blocks 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. There is no comparable standard for UVA. For better protection, look for broad-spectrum sunscreens that also provide some (but not complete) protection against UVA. Agents that block UVA rays (look for them on the ingredient label) include oxybenzone and avobenzone (parsol 1789, or helioplex).
Dermatologist, Leslie Baumann, M.D., says sunscreens can provide more than just sun protection. They should also promote healthy skin. For example, sunscreens with retinol may help reduce the risk of wrinkles. It’s important to know your skin type. People who are prone to freckles or sun-related pigment problems should use a sunscreen containing soy or niacin. Those with oily skin may prefer a sunscreen in the form of powder. Gels or sprays are also better options for oily skin, while creams may be preferable to those with dry skin. Sunscreens with moisturizer are also a good option for dry skin.
Cost is not necessarily a factor when choosing a sunscreen. Some of the cheaper brands work just as well as the more expensive ones. Sunscreens can also be layered for more protection (for example, using a lotion or cream first followed by a powder-based sunscreen). The most important thing to remember is to reapply sunscreen often. Health experts say sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. Use about one ounce and reapply every two hours. Baumann says parsol, the UVA protectant, breaks down rapidly and should be reapplied every 30 minutes. Baumann also recommends people get in the habit of applying sunscreen every day. Even if you don’t go outside, sunlight can still damage the skin because the UV rays pass through windows.
Web ResourcesThe American Academy of Dermatology Web site
For information about sunlight, UV radiation, sunburn or sun protection:
American Cancer Society Web site
Environmental Protection Agency Web site
The National Cancer Institute Web site
The Skin Cancer Foundation Web site