We all need protection from ultraviolet radiation. This is a form of energy produced by the sun which can damage skin cells. The sun produces two forms of UV radiation which can harm the skin: UVA and UVB. UVB is the most dangerous and acute overexposure causes sunburn. Over longer periods of time (years), cumulative exposure to UVB causes damage to the genetic material in skin cells which can result in the formation of skin cancers. UVA also plays a role in the formation of skin cancer and is the major cause of the wrinkles, brown spots, and complexion changes that we recognize as aging.
(Tanning beds use mainly UVA; this is a great way to get prematurely aged skin.)
Staying out of the sun, especially in the mid day, minimizes UV damage to the skin, but it is almost impossible to totally avoid exposure. The small amounts of sun exposure we experience just going to and from work and running errands build up over time and cause most of the cumulative sun damage to our skin. Broad-brimmed hats can protect the skin from direct sunlight, but remember that 50% of the sun’s rays can be reflected off of cement, sand, or water back onto your face. Windows and windshields screen only the UVB rays; the UVA rays come right through glass. Even when temperatures are cool, you can get significant sun exposure. Clouds are no protection: 80% of the UV rays come right through.
Daily use of sunscreens is an excellent way to protect yourself from harmful UV radiation. There are hundreds of products on the market. Look for sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 for everyday use. Products with higher SPF’s are also available. Many think that the additional protection of an SPF over 30 is minimal, but we feel that the higher protection factor helps make up for deficiencies of application. All sunscreens are good at blocking UVB, but the only sunscreens that adequately block UVA are those which contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (also known as Parasol 1789), or the newest UVA filter, ecamsule (also known as Mexoryl SX). Remember, it is UVA which causes skin aging, so be sure to use a sunscreen with at least one of these ingredients. Helioplex is a new ingredient that stabilizes avobenzone and extends its protection to 4-5 hours.
There are many sunscreens formulated for the face; these are less likely to feel greasy or clog pores. Many facial sunscreens contain moisturizing ingredients and can be used as an under makeup moisturizer. Sunscreens also come in waterproof formulations which are good for swimming and outdoor activities. Sunscreens should be applied to all exposed areas (face, neck, ears, tops of arms and hands) and ideally should be reapplied every few hours. Don’t let the ultra high SPF numbers fool you; they still need to be reapplied for maximum efficacy.
There has been some controversy concerning the use of sunscreens and adequate Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common and may be related to increased sunscreen use, decreased outdoor activity, and obesity. It is true that sunshine helps our skin to synthesize Vitamin D; the actual amount of sun needed for adequate levels seems to be in dispute, with some saying 7-10 minutes of exposure to the arms and face once or twice weekly. We obviously don’t recommend sunbathing but we do recommend a daily Vitamin D supplement of 800-1200 units daily, especially for those at risk for osteoporosis and for those who have darker skin. To view the American Academy of Dermatology’s position statement on Vitamin D, click here.
This list is not comprehensive, but contains some of our favorite products.
L’Oreal Anthelios 40: contains ecamsule and avobenzone for superior UVA protection
M.D. Forte Environmental Protection Cream SPF 30:
Skinceuticals Physical Defense SPF 30: chemical free;
Elta Daily SPF 40: non-tinted; goes on smoothly under makeup; available in this office
Elta UV Shield SPF 45: lightweight sunscreen for oilier skin types; available in this office
Melashade SPF 30: silky lightweight sunscreen for oilier skin types; slight tint but dries sheer; available in this office
Replenix CF SPF 45: very moisturizing sunscreen for dry skin; contains green tea (antioxidant). Slight tint. Available in this office
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch 55, 45, 30: contain Helioplex, oil-free, nongreasy
Neutrogena UVA/UVB Sunblock 45: oil-free, sweatproof, waterproof, rubproof
Neutrogena Age Shield Sunblock 45: moisturizing, contains antioxidants
Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer 30: moisturizing, oil-free; contains soy for pigmentation
Aveeno Ultra Calming SPF 30: contains feverfew, an anti-irritant.
Coppertone Ultra Sheer Faces: 30 moisturizing, contains antioxidants
Blue Lizard 30+ Lotion : waterproof up to 4 hours;
Coppertone Oil Free 30 Lotion: waterproof
Banana Boat Sport Sunblock Lotion 50: waterproof
Neutrogena Ultra Soft Hydrating Sunblock 30
Blue Lizard Babies 30+: waterproof up to 4 hours;
Coppertone Water Babies Spectra 3 50: waterproof
Hawaiian Tropic Kids Sunblock 60+: waterproof
Elta Daily SPF 40 : also paraben free; available in this office
Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 60: fragrance free, preservative free;
Melashade SPF 30: available in this office
Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 60: fragrance free, preservative free
Neutrogena Sensitive Skin UVA/UVB Block SPF 30
Don’t forget to protect your lips, especially if you do not wear lipstick.
Chapstick Ultra SPF 30
Aveeno Essential Moisture Lip Conditioner SPF 15
Blistex Complete Moisture SPF 15
Solar Protection Liptect SPF 45: contains zinc for instant protection;
These are small and handy to carry in your purse, pocket, golf/tennis bag, etc, to use on backs of hands or to reapply to other areas
Neutrogena Healthy Defense Oil Free Sunblock Stick 30
Coppertone Endless Summer Ultrasheer Sunscreen Stick 30
Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces and Tender Places 50+
Sun Protective Clothing/Hats
Rit Sunguard Laundry powder that tightens the weave of clothing to boost sun protection to SPF 30. Add to your wash; good for 20 washings. Available in grocery stores, usually next to Rit Dyes.
Sunless tanners simply stain the skin to make it appear tanned. Remember though that unless they contain a sunscreen, they do not provide any sun protection. For an online ranking of products, visit www.sunless.com
Total Block Total Block 60 and 65 are excellent sunscreens for extremely sun-sensitive people, or those with sun sensitivity disorders. The products can be ordered at www.totalblock.com.
Remember to do as the Australians do: Slip/Slap/Slop/Wrap:
Slip into the shade/Slip into a shirt
Slap on a hat
Slop on some sunscreen
Wrap on sunglasses!