Sun Protection and Sunscreens:
Finding the right SPF can be challenging in today’s world. There is so much information and misinformation that it can be difficult to understand. There are several things that come into play when choosing a sunscreen.
Protecting yourself from harmful UV rays is very important. 1 in 3 Caucasians gets skin cancer, 1 in 5 across all ethnicities. One in three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer. About 90% of skin cancer is preventable with better sun protection. We need to learn to protect ourselves and our families. We used to think that a sun burn was bad, but that a suntan was good because it protected you from a burn. We now know that each time you tan, it means that the DNA in the skin is breaking. It is this breaking of the DNA that leads to skin cancer and premature aging. So it is not only important to avoid sunburns, but also to avoid suntans.
The two types of sunblock are physical and chemical. Physical sunblocks are mineral-based, using zinc and titanium. These minerals sit on top of the skin and protect us by reflecting the UV rays. Chemical sunscreen ingredients are any ingredients that are not zinc or titanium. In these, a chemical reaction occurs that helps to dissipate the UV rays.
To know what is in your sunscreen, you need to check the active ingredient label. The active ingredients may change from year to year for the same product, so it is important to check each time you purchase the product.
Topical products’ ingredients can and are absorbed through the skin. Because of this, many people have concerns about using chemical SPF ingredients. Physical blocks do not get absorbed. For daily use, Dr. Grossman recommends physical sunblock as it simply provides a barrier to the sun. For days when you will have higher sun exposure, Dr. Grossman recommends using higher SPF which usually means resorting to a chemical formulation. Whichever formulation you choose, Dr. Grossman urges her patients to protect skin with long sleeve rash guards, pants, and hats. The more covered you are, the less SPF you will need to apply and reapply.
The FDA has also developed a new rating called GRASE. GRASE means “generally regarded as safe and efficacious”. Currently, the only two sunscreen ingredients that are GRASE are zinc and titanium. Patients also regularly express concern over the affect of sunblock on our ocean ecosystem. Reef safe sunscreens are sunscreens that contain non micronized zinc and titanium. REEF friendly SPFs are those that contain titanium or Zinc, but may contain nano-particles. Please be aware that some companies claim to be reef-safe if their products do not contain oxybenzone or octioxate. Please remember that SPF ingredients get into the ocean, not just through swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, but also through entrance into the water systems through showering and pools.
Water resistance is also important to note. For general daily use, a moisturizer with sunscreen is fine. However if doing outdoor activities, water sports, or anything that may make you sweat, you will need a second SPF that is water resistant. This means, that the product will maintain efficacy for either 40 or 80 minutes when wet, depending upon the label. Please note that there is no product that is “waterproof.” All water resistant products need to be re-applied after getting wet, after swimming, or after sweating. The amount of water resistance depends upon the base of the SPF, not the active ingredients. Many people have different types of SPF, one for daily use, one for exercise, and one for beach or water vacations.
SPF measures the time a product protects against skin reddening from UVB exposure, compared to time it takes to redden without protection. Thus an SPF number does not independently indicate any specific time that you can remain in the sun without turning pink, only a relative time compared to your unprotected skin. For example, it would normally take 10 minutes for one to start to turn pink without protection. An SPF 15 would allow 150 minutes, an SPF 30, 300 minutes and SPF 50, 500 minutes. Studies show that people only apply about 1/7 the amount of product to get the number on the bottle. So while the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a minimum SPF of 30 everyday, for all skin colors, many dermatologists recommend using an SPF 50 in hopes of having their patients get better protection. To maintain protection, sunscreen must be applied every 2 hours and after all water activities, even if it says, “waterproof”. For the face, you should apply a tablespoon of product, and an entire shot glass for the body.
ZINC OXIDE – is a PHYSICAL BLOCK that has the broadest range of protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II and most of the UVA I rays. Micronized zinc oxide is a more transparent alternative than the traditional white paste we’re used to seeing on lifeguards and surfers.
- Karyng Sheer Physical Complete Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 50+. Water Resistant.
- ISDIN Eryfotona Altinica Lotion, SPF 50
- Alba Botanica Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50
- Baby Bum Mineral Lotion SPF 50
- Neutrogena Sheer Zinc SPF 50
- Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive SPF 50
- Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch SPF 30
TITANIUM OXIDE – is a common PHYSICAL BLOCK that protects against all UVB rays and short UVA II rays.
- California Baby Supersensitive 30+ Sunscreen Lotion.
ZINC OXIDE + TITANIUM DIOXIDE-PHYSICAL BLOCK
- Karyng Complete Broad Spectrum SPF50
- Skinceuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense Broad Spectrum, SPF 50
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30
- Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30
- CeraVe Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 50
- Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Liquid SPF 50
- Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Brush On Shield SPF 50
- ISDINCEUTICALS Mineral Brush SPF 50
REEF SAFE: – These tend to be more opaque due to thick formulations.
- Badger Sport Broad Spectrum, SPF 35
- Raw Elements Face and Body Certified Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Think Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Think Sport Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Kokua Suncare SPF 50
PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL: – has either zinc or titanium with added chemicals to increase the protection and efficacy.
- Babyganics Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Babyganics Mineral Based Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
- EltaMD UV Sport Broad, SPF 50
- EltaMD 40 UV Daily Broad Spectrum, SPF 40
- EltaMD UV Aero Broad Spectrum, SPF45
- EltaMD 46 Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Kiss My Face 50 Sun Spray Lotion, SPF 50
- Super Goop Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Alba Botanica Hawaiian Clear Spray Nourishing Coconut, SPF 50.
- Coola Classic Face Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50
- Coola Organic Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50
- Hawaiian Tropic Plus Lotion, SPF 50
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost, SPF 50
- Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 50
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Water Resistant SPF 70,100
- Burt’s Bees 100% Natural All-Weather SPF 15 Moisturizer Lip Balm (Physical)
- Colorscience Lipshine SPF 35 Sunscreen (Physical)
- Super Goop Shine On Lip Screen, SPF 50 (Chemical)
- Elta MD UV Lip Balm. Broad Spectrum SPF31 (Chemical)
- Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 50 (Zinc Oxide)
- California Baby Broad Spectrum Stick,
SPF 30. Body. Stick (Titanium Dioxide)
- Babyganics Pure Mineral Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50 Stick. (Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide)
- Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen SPF 50 (Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide)
- Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Water Resistant SPF 30 (Zinc and Chemical)
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick SPF 70 (Chemical)