With summer upon us and recent questions surrounding sunscreen safety, there is more confusion about whether or not to use sunscreen and if so, which ones. One thing is for certain: it is VERY important to wear sunscreen regularly!
It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Do you know that some sunscreens can prevent sunburn, reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, and help prevent early signs of skin aging? Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin so it is best to apply sunscreen daily.
Which sunscreen is best? When selecting a sunscreen, look for the following items on the label:
- Broad spectrum: The words “broad spectrum” means that the sunscreen can protect your skin from both types of harmful UV rays — UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF 30 or higher: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher which will block 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Always remember, however, that sunscreen isn’t a complete block, no matter what the SPF is!
- Water resistant: Dermatologists also recommend that you look for “water resistant” sunscreens. This tells you that the sunscreen will stay on wet or sweaty skin for a while before you need to reapply. Water resistance lasts either 40 or 80 minutes. Not all sunscreens offer water resistance.
When should I apply sunscreen and how much do I need? Most adults need about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) in order to cover their full body. It is best to apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. When outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. And yes, you should wear sunscreen every single day of the year — even in the winter or when in the shade!
What about that recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association? A recent study found that using sunscreen the correct way for just one day increased the amount of four chemical sunscreen ingredients—avobenzone, ecamsule, octocrylene, and oxybenzone—in the bloodstream to levels the agency says triggers the need for more testing, potentially raising concerns ². The fact that it is absorbed through the skin and into the body, however, does not mean the ingredient is unsafe. The study concluded that more research needs to be done. What should you do in the meantime? Don’t stop using sunscreen while scientists do more research! The risks of skin damage and skin cancer from sun exposure are well known. If you are concerned about using sunscreen with these ingredients, choose one that contains mineral active ingredients, such as zinc oxide.
What else can I do to protect myself in the sun? Seek shade when appropriate. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible.
- American Academy of Dermatology aad.org
- Matta MK, Zusterzeel R, Pilli NR, et al. Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Published online May 06, 2019321(21):2082–2091. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.5586