Sunscreen 101

September 2, 2020

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Person sitting on the beach applying sunscreen
Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Skin Protection This Summer

While the hottest months of summer may have passed, it is still important to remember to use sunscreen. Many doctors recommend everyday use of sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage and premature aging. If you walk into any drugstore though, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of the different types of sunscreen. To help narrow down your choices, here is some information and answers to common questions about sun protection:

  • UVA vs. UVB: There are two types of light rays that come from the sun: UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause sunburns, while UVA rays cause damage in the deeper layers of the skin, even though you may not get a sunburn. To help protect you from both of these damaging rays look for a sunscreen that says "broad spectrum coverage" or "UVA/UVB protection." This label will indicate that the sunscreen will help protect you from both types of light rays.
  • Chemical vs. Physical: There are two main types of suncreen, chemical and physical. Physical sunscreen has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients, which protect the skin by forming a physical barrier above the skin to protect it. It also creates that classic "white cast" on the skin. Chemical sunscreen works a little differently; it is absorbed into the skin and converts the light rays into heat, so there is no damage to the skin. Both work well to protect the skin, but some doctors recommend the use of physical sunscreen for those with sensitive skin as it is less likely to cause a skin reaction. If you choose physical sunscreen, it is good to look for one that has at least 10% zinc oxide for broad spectrum coverage. 
  • Coral Reef Protection: Many have been talking about the damage that sunscreen has on coral reefs. If you are concerned with coral reef protection, it is best to look for sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate or those simply labeled "reef safe."

If you're interested in learning more about sunscreen or still have questions, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Even though sunscreen can offer a lot of protection from sun damage, wearing a hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves can offer additional protection. Have fun in the sun and remember to protect your skin before you go out!

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