Sunscreens – Part II: The Solution

When applying sunscreen, one should apply about one ounce (a shot glass full) to all exposed body parts 30 minutes before sun exposure to give the ingredients time to bond to your skin, and every two hours thereafter. Most people only apply a quarter to half an ounce. Of course the amount applied will vary depending upon the amount of exposed skin and the person’s size. It should be reapplied after swimming, sweating profusely or toweling off.

The Environmental Working Group* (EWG), which rates sunscreens and other personal care products, makes the following recommendations about sun exposure:

  • Do not use sunscreen as a tool to prolong your time in the sun.
  • Cover up! Hats, shirts, and sunglasses are the best protection. Sun protective clothing is the best, preferably with a UVP (ultraviolet protection rating) on the label.
  • Stay inside when UV radiation levels are at their highest usually between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. in the US.
  • Avoid sunburn.
  • Stay in the shade when possible.
  • Do not use a tanning bed or sunbathe.
  • Protect kids. When you are young, sunburns are more damaging to your skin’s overall health, so keep little ones out of the sun.
  • Pick a sunscreen with strong UVA protection.
  • Get vitamin D – there is speculation but not proof that adequate levels of it can reduce the risk of melanoma. Vitamin D can reduce other types of cancer. Commit to getting screened for vitamin D deficiency. But that does not justify more sun exposure because there are plenty of ways to acquire it through diet and supplements.
  • Examine your skin – check your skin regularly for new moles that are tender or growing. Ask your doctor how often you should see a dermatologist.

What to look for and what to avoid when choosing your sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are the best because they:

  • Provide strong sun protection with few health concerns because they don’t penetrate the skin
  • Don’t break down in the sun
  • Zinc oxide offers good protection from UVA rays – titanium dioxide less so, but better than most other active ingredients
  • Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice for sun protection

Sunscreen with Zinc oxide.

For consumers who don’t like mineral products because of their tendency to make one look pale when applied, sunscreens with avobenzone or parsol 1789 (3% for the best UVA protection) and without oxybezone or 4-MBC, are recommended.

Sunscreen with Oxybenzone.

Mexoryl (ecamsule) is good at blocking UVA rays. But it is expensive.

Avoid vitamin A – sunscreens that contain vitamin A (aka retinyl palmitate or retinol) actually increase the risk of tumors and lesions on skin that is exposed to the sun.

Avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzephenones like dioybenzone, or sulisobenzone – because they can irritate your skin.

Use creams or lotions not sprays or powder – because sunscreens that come in sprays or powder can easily be inhaled and some question if people can apply sprays or powders evenly over their skin.

Buy sunscreens without bug spray – apply bug repellant separately, if needed.

For more information on sunscreens please go to the environmental wellness group’s website at: www.ewg.org

Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin

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