The sun produces two types of UltraViolet (UV) Rays that cause damage to the skin. UVA Rays are of a longer wavelength, can pass through windows, and causes more aging effects. UVA Rays are the reason commuters get more wrinkles and sun damage on the left side of their face. Those who are foolish enough to drive with the car sunroof open get sun damage and premature aging all over their faces and hands.
UVB Rays are of a shorter wavelength. They cannot pass though windows, thankfully, but are more dangerous as they can cause skin cancer. UVB Rays are responsible for most cases of sunburn. Getting a sunburn once every 2 years can triple your risk for melanoma skin cancer.
Therefore, in choosing a sunscreen, it is paramount to select one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. We strongly recommend a physical blocker sunscreen that sits on the top of the skin (vs. chemical blockers which interact with the skin) and work by deflecting the sun rays. To this end, we have selected the most protective and ‘skin-friendly’ sunscreens available to carry at our office.
If you are unable to get to our office to purchase our approved sunscreens, it is important to learn to read labels. Look at the ingredients, and choose a SPF above 30, broad-spectrum coverage with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and, for outdoor sports, water resistance. Ingredients of concern include oxybenzone (or benzonephenone-3), and nanoparticles. Studies of oxybenzone show that while the compound is mostly safe, it may cause allergic and irritant contact dermatitis. Studies of the safety of nanoparticles are inconclusive. In our office, we have selected sunscreens with micronized, rather than nano-sized, particles.
Despite what the media may report, sunscreens are safe in children and can even be used on infants under 6 months of age. Sun avoidance is the best approach to protecting babies from the sun’s damaging rays,as their skin is functionally different than adults skin (and thus leads to greater product absorption). Babies should be kept in the shade when outdoors, especially during peak sun hours. When shade is not always available, apply sunscreen before going outdoors to all areas not protected by clothing, including the back of the neck, ears, and feet. Reapply every 2 hours.
Parents may prefer to use a spray on children because it is easy to apply. Choose a product with zinc oxide so you can see where it is going on the skin. Making sunscreen application part of a daily routine, like brushing your teeth, encourages healthy behaviors and habits. Allow children who are old enough to apply sunscreen to do it themselves reinforces the habit.
A major mistake people make with sunscreen application is not using enough product with each application. If you are putting sunscreen only on the tip of your index finger and applying it, you are coming up short! An easy rule-of-thumb to ensure you are applying the proper amount of sunscreen is to cover the full length of your first two fingers with sunscreen and apply.
THIS is the proper amount of sunscreen to apply each morning to ensure adequate coverage.
In sunny locations, such as the beach, a park, the pool, hiking or biking, we recommend a hat and UV protective clothing in addition to water-resistent sunscreen (so you will not sweat it off). On a daily basis, you should apply a good physical sunscreen (that does not need to be waterproof). Our favorite sunscreens for daily wear are lightly tinted, providing even coverage and standing in for foundation. Top this with mineral powder make-up that also has SPF. Committing to this regimen daily, regardless of the weather, will reduce your risk of skin cancer, as well as preventing wrinkles, keeping you look young!
The sunscreen brand we recommend most frequently is the Elta MD family of products, as they offer superior sun care and are paraben-free, fragrance-free and dye-free. The very broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage protects the skin from sun damage that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Elta MD also offers a tinted sunscreen that can double as a foundation. This line is especially good for dry or sensitive skin, or dry conditions such as the high desert. We recommend Elta Pure for infants and children.