Choosing a sunscreen product these days may seem like a daunting task; SPF, waterproof, chemicals, organic, spays, wipes, oils. The list goes on and on. So how do you choose the right sun protection product? When selecting a sunscreen you want a product that will effectively protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays in the most avenues possible.
At Colorado Plastic Surgery Center, we firmly believe that everyone needs to protect his or her skin from Colorado’s intense UV rays. Everyone, regardless of skin pigmentation, should be applying a sunscreen with a physical sun block daily and periodically reapplying during full sun exposure. After all, we are at a mile high elevation with over 300 days of sunshine per year guaranteeing significant sun exposure. Whether you are enjoying water sports, winter activities, mountain excursions, or just spending time at the pool or on the tennis court, sun protection should be reapplied every 60-90 minutes during sun exposure. With that in mind, choose your sunscreen product wisely. Here are a few helpful tips while making your decision on which product to purchase for your skincare needs.
Understanding UV Rays
There are two types of UV Rays given off by the sun: UVA and UVB.
UVB (B = burning rays) – these rays penetrate the superficial skin layer causing sunburn.
UVA (A = aging rays) – these deep penetrating rays contribute to premature aging and skin cancer.
For optimal protection we recommend using a product that has both UVA and UVB protection. The new FDA guidelines allow for the “Broad Spectrum” label on products that offer both UVA and UVB protection making these products easier to identify.
There are two forms of active ingredients that provide UV ray protection in sunscreens: physical barriers and chemical barriers. Look at the product’s active ingredients to determine which form a sun protection product employs.
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide are both physical sun blocks. These natural mineral ingredients coat the superficial layers of skin creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s UV rays (it’s like having a t-shirt over your skin). Physicians prefer physical barriers because they are ingredients that are broad spectrum sun protection.
Many over-the-counter sun protection products will be based more on chemical barrier ingredients. These products are effective at preventing sunburn (UVB rays). However, chemical ingredients can trap heat on the skin and allow the UVA (deeper, aging rays) to penetrate your skin and wreck its vulnerable condition and causing premature aging. From an anti-aging standpoint, chemical barriers do not prevent brown, aging spots, red vascular damage or loss of collagen on your face or body.
The old way of thinking was the higher the SPF, the longer you could be in the sun without burning and the less frequently you would need to reapply sunscreen. This just isn’t true. The traditional SPF measurement scale only applies to the measurement of UVB protection and has no correlation to UVA protection (aging rays). The new FDA sunscreen guidelines for sun protections product labels have also changed the way SPF is displayed on products. Sun protection products with an SPF below 15 now require warnings and the SPF label range has been capped at SPF 50.
Many think that SPF in their daily moisturizer or makeup is enough to be considered significant sun protection. This just isn’t true. At Colorado Plastic Surgery Center, we recommend a minimum SPF of 30. The SPF level in most over-the-counter makeup is SPF 15-20, making the SPF in these product insufficient for effective sun protection. To make an SPF compatible with the lotion or makeup more chemicals are often needed, and the potency of the sun protection just doesn’t equal that of a broad spectrum sun block.
Long-Term Skin Health
One last thing to consider when selecting your sun block is the prevention of long term health problems associated with too much sun exposure, specifically cancer. Any “brown” spots on your skin are magnets for sun and will darken over time, especially if left untreated. Using a broad spectrum physical sun block (Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide) will help prevent brown spots from darkening or increasing in size. Examine your skin regularly and check for spots. If any spots on of your skin have changed in color or texture recently, your dermatologist should evaluate those spots.
Evaluating Product Forms
From wipes and sprays to creams and sticks, there are a variety of forms of sun protection application. Currently the FDA is still analyzing the effectiveness of sunscreen application with towelette wipes and spray formulas. While any sun protection is better than nothing, for effective, complete application consider using a lotion, cream, gel or stick. These forms have been shown to be compatible with broad spectrum formulas and provide a more even application.
Sun Protection Products We Offer
Dr. Slenkovich offers many broad spectrum choices and levels of quality medical grade sun protection skincare products.
Obagi Healthy Skin SPF 36 $44.00
Skin Medica Daily Physical Defense SPF 30 $45.00
Epionce Active Shield Lotion SPF 30 $20.00 SPF 50 $24.00