Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ask the Expert: Which sunscreen should I be using?

I get asked this question at least 10 times a day. The short answer is that the best sunscreen is the one that you will actually use. There are some things about sunscreen that are purely preference. For example, I find that most men hate using greasy creams and prefer a gel or a spray. Neutrogena has even recently come up with one that is almost like a nifty deodorant stick that makes a lot of “goop-haters” happy. And those of us with rosacea tend to prefer sunscreens with fewer chemicals that may tend to be irritating to sensitive skin.  Some of this just requires a bit of trial and error. Just like I can’t tell you which topping you would like best on your frozen yogurt, I can’t tell you exactly which sunscreen you would prefer. There are, however, a few basic sunscreen tenets that I live by:  

1)   SPF of at least 30

SPF – Sun Protection Factor- is a commonly misunderstood concept. It is essentially a ratio of how much UVB rays are being filtered out. To decode, think of it this way: SPF 15 filters out 93% of the UVB rays while SPF 30 filters out 97% of the UVB rays. The numbers don't increase proportionally, so going above 30 doesn't help all that much. No sunscreen filters out 100% of the sun's harmful rays

2)   Pick a broad spectrum

This means that the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are associated with sunburns. UVA rays, however, are just as dangerous and are associated with long lasting sun damage. You want to protect yourself from both.

3)   Physical Blockers 

Sunscreens are made up of either physical blockers, chemical blockers, or a combination of the two. I personally prefer the physical blockers like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and iron oxide simply because one ingredient blocks both UVA and UVB rays. They are basic minerals, rather than chemicals, which can be irritating to the skin or produce frank allergic reactions. PABA and oxybenzone are common chemical culprits for these problems. Neutrogena Purescreen, Blue Lizard, and Elta MD lines all have pure mineral sunscreens. The downside to these is that they can make you look a little pasty. Elta MD, in particular, makes several micronized zinc and titanium sunscreens that keep you from looking ghostly, which is why it's my sunscreen of choice for the face.

Just Remember:

  • The sun is our biggest contributor to aging. Daily sunscreen is a key ingredient in my daily anti-aging regimen. 
  • 90% of skin cancers are related to ionizing radiation from the sun, so sunscreen is integral in keeping you cancer free.
A little sunscreen goes a long way!

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