Why do we need sunscreen?
- Ultraviolet rays are a form of radiation that our skin is exposed to on a daily basis. There are two types of UV rays. UVA rays are responsible for “aging” of the skin, including wrinkles. They are not blocked by glass in the car while driving, but they also will not burn you. Ever wondered why you don’t get burned on a long car trip? But over time, exposure to UVA rays leads to breakdown in collagen in the skin, increased laxity and wrinkles and discoloration, and it contributes to skin cancer risk. Check yourself in the mirror. You likely have more wrinkles and spots on the left side of your face due to driving in a car your whole life. Also, Dermatologists detect more skin cancers on the left side of the face from chronic UV damage on the left side.
- UVB rays are the major form of solar radiation that causes burning of the skin. Over time, multiple burns leads to increased risk for skin cancers, including melanoma, the most dangerous type.
- Most sunscreens block UVB rays to avoid sunburns. A great sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
How to pick a great sunscreen:
- Buying sunscreen can be a daunting task. There is so much bad information out there regarding sunscreens. Controversy exists over the safety of sunscreens, but this fact is true: exposure to UV radiation without protection with sunscreen leads to increased risk of skin cancer, discoloration, wrinkles and skin laxity. To date, no scientific study has proven that it is safer to NOT use sunscreen.
- That being said, it is easy enough to avoid some of the controversial chemical sunscreens that you have heard about in the news lately. To do this, I recommend sticking with physical blocker sunscreens. Physical blockers include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based sunscreen. These are mineral based sunscreens. Zinc is found in the white diaper rash cream we use on newborn babies, and titanium is an inert mineral found in many white foods that we eat (think white cake icing). I know, I know — you are thinking back to a lifeguard with a big white stripe of zinc on their nose in the 80s. Nowadays, the minerals are more finely processed, easier to spread and come in tinted forms that do not leave that pasty white look.
- When choosing a sunscreen, turn the bottle to the back side, and look for the bold print that says, “Active ingredients.” In that list, we want to see Zinc or Titanium listed there. If your natural skin tone is more tan, you may want to go for a tinted version which rubs in easier. If you are more light-skinned, you can probably use the white. Keep in mind the more finely the minerals are processed, the less of a white streak they leave behind. Processing costs more, so you may have to pay a few dollars extra for something that feels nice. Sometimes, it is a process of trial and error. At LUX~A Medical Spa, we carry a line called Elta MD, which includes many varieties of physical blocker sunscreen, and we have testers available for you to try before you buy. Don’t forget your lips too! Skin cancer on the lips can be devastating and is one of the more aggressive types. We have a Lumen Renew and Restore Lip Kit to help keep your lips in great shape. Another great option is to top off your sunscreen with a sunscreen powder. This takes the shine away and makes for easy reapplication.
- The best sunscreen is sometimes the one that you will actually use. If you hate how it feels, it makes you break out or it makes you sweat or feel greasy, try another. At LUX~A Medical Spa, we have experts who can help you find the exact sunscreen that will keep you safe and you will not mind using.
Information provided by: Carmen A. Traywick, M.D. (Co-owner of LUX~A Medical Spa)